Randy and his new pair of shoes, thanks to Shoe Bank Canada. - Image Contributed

What has laces, is covered in art and is charitable

Shoe Bank’s unique fundraising event combines artistic creativity with ordinary sneakers

Shoe Bank Canada is holding a charity fundraising cocktail reception and auction called My Canvas Has Laces in October to raise funds to support their expansion

And they are doing it to help more people like Randy.

Randy (last name omitted) was hopeful as he went to Jamaica for a job interview in January. Those hopes were dashed when he was violently assaulted while there, leaving him multiple injuries and a broken hand requiring surgery. With assistance from the Canadian embassy, Randy fled Jamaica in July. He arrived at YVR airport in flip-flops; thankful to be safe but despondent about his prospects.

“Life [was] so hard [then], financially, after the surgery and losing all my clothes and footwear,” said Randy shortly after his return to Canada, “I fled Jamaica with only what I could carry in my one hand.”

With a job fair coming up in the Lower Mainland, Randy needed to get back on his feet. Shoe Bank Canada, who collects shoes from individuals as well as footwear manufacturers and then distributes them to people in need with the help from social agencies, got Randy a pair of everyday shoes as well as the work shoes he needed to make that crucial first impression.

“Everyday is a huge struggle not being able to use my left hand as I did before” continues Randy, “But with the support of organizations like the Shoe Bank I am learning to appreciate the kind heart of many beautiful and loving people in BC.”

Stories like Randy’s are emotional fuel to Sue Ross, Marketing & Operations Coordinator, at Shoe Bank Canada, who is driven to help Canadians from all types of backgrounds and circumstances.

“A common misconception about the Shoe Bank is that we only provide footwear to homeless individuals,” said Ross, “The fact is we respond to any situation where we can help. An elementary school in Kugaaruk, Nunavut burned down with everything in it, including athletic gear, so we are shipping them 250 indoor shoes so that the kids can still participate in gym.”

Based in Kelowna, Shoe Bank Canada was started by local community activist Jim Belshaw with a mission to ensure that no Canadian should want for a decent pair of shoes. Shoe Bank Canada collects shoes from individuals and footwear companies and distributes them to people in need in Canada. As awareness of their mission spreads so makes the demand for footwear.

Shoe Bank has distributed over 40,000 pairs of shoes to-date. As their operations have expanded, Shoe Bank Canada partnered with Delta distribution company, Evolution Fulfillment, whose president Ben Martin has a track record of philanthropic action. It was Martin’s idea to create a fun gala event to raise funds to expand operations and build an awareness of their mission outside of Kelowna to reach a greater number of people.

“Evolution Fulfillment and our foundation [Evolution Fulfilled Foundation] is committed to making a difference in the lives of Canadians in need,” said Martin about their support for Shoe Bank Canada.

To help even more Canadians, Shoe Bank Canada is hosting a gala fundraising event on Oct. 14 called My Canvas Has Laces, sponsored by Tom Harris Cellular and Innov8 Digital Solutions, where artists from across Canada will use a white pair of shoes as their ‘canvas.’

The final works of art are then auctioned off live with proceeds going to support Shoe Bank Canada’s expansion efforts.

Those in attendance will be able to bid on a pair of shoes by these Canadian artists: Daniel Moosayebi, Gigi Hoeller, Jan Corcoran, Julian Garner, Lawrie Dignan, Liz Ranney, Mary-Louise Scappatici, Margaret Bremner, Miroslav Djordjevic, Regina Seib, Nancy Hache, Nikki Balfour, Teri Blackwell, Vicky V and Tanya Viala. Successful bidders will literally be able to walk away with a unique piece of art and a good story to tell their friends.

Tickets to the gala are $30 per person, or a block of 10 tickets is $260 and can be purchased online. Monetary donations to Shoe Bank Canada are always welcome for those who can’t attend but wish to support the cause. The gala event will be held at the Kelowna Art Gallery and will feature food by One Big Table, a grocery cooperative that specializes in sourcing locally grown food, and live entertainment by guitarist Adam Meachem.