Runners know the importance of their shoes. With the right pair, a runner can strengthen
their performance and complete an improved healthy run. With the wrong pair, pain, awkwardness and
even injuries can bring down any run. More
than a decade ago, Mona Purdy started up Share Your Soles, a non-profit
organization dedicated to finding shoes for those that truly need them, the
impoverished around the world.
Since then, Purdy and SYS have helped millions in countries
like Kenya and Haiti find the shoes they so badly need. However, last March the charity found itself
in trouble, they needed to move but had nowhere to go. While support came pouring out, nothing quite
fit their need. “It was like the three
bears,” Purdy said. “One place wouldn’t
have enough parking, the next wouldn’t have enough storage.” Finally the right place came about, with more
than 100,000 sq. feet of room and plenty of secure parking, SYS found their new
home at 900 E. 103rd in Chicago.
The new location has everything SYS is looking for and gives
them room to grow. The space is complete
with two indoor loading docks to handle their monthly large loads that can
reach as many as 17,000 shoes and multiple kitchens to help their volunteers
stay onsite and work for extended periods of time. In addition to the two big shipments they do
multiple smaller shipments to places like Haiti and American Indian
With the bigger space SYS plans on increasing their ability
to help those in need. Their newest need
is bicycles. The group is looking for
donated bikes for a number of reasons, the first and most local reason is the
new space itself. With volunteers needing
to quickly travel the big warehouse space, they need the bikes to handle the
workload. They will also be sending the
bikes along with the shoes on the shipments so once on the ground they can
quickly get to work distributing. Three
years ago SYS also started collecting medical supplies, and will continue to
look for them in donations. These
supplies include walkers, wheelchairs and crutches. Many of those most in need of a new pair of
shoes are those waiting for a prosthetic leg.
Purdy said there is no feeling quite like fitting someone with their
first pair of shoes with their new prosthetic leg.
As much as they would like to find donations, SYS is also in
need of volunteers. Ideally, Purdy said,
someone could come in to volunteer and when they come in they would bring as
many shoes as they can to donate.
Volunteers are needed to organize all of the shoes and help load them,
they also need boxes set up and a number of other things. On top of that, the group is looking for
money to help make the trip complete.
While nearly all of their workforce are volunteers “the shoes don’t fly
themselves,” Purdy said. The money is
used not only for travel but for protecting the safety of the delivery once
landed. Most of the places that need the
donations are also in some of the most dangerous places in the world. Regular shipments are sent out to Central and
South America and Africa. “We have a shipment
in Kenya right now,” Purdy said. “We are
trying to get a shipment to Kenya and back to Haiti. We get like ten requests a month.”
The planned trip to Kenya would travel to lengths only
rivaled by most armed forces. After
landing in Kenya, the shipment of shoes, bikes and medical supplies will take
off on a 12 hour land trip nearing the Kenya-Sudan border. Purdy said it is essential to maintain the
safety of both the shipment and those delivering it, she said some of the
things she has seen on trips like these would rival those of a war movie.
Purdy encourages those groups interested in helping out to register
online for a specific timeslot as many times slots are filled up months in
advance. The charity has attracted some
very well-known groups to their warehouse.
The Chicago White Sox already have two dates in September where they
will come out to help the cause.
Share Your Soles has a full calendar of fundraising events
planned already throughout the summer and early fall. The first will come August 11 at Reggie’s
Music Joint on the South Side. The night
will be full of live music and dancing while patrons are encouraged to drop off
their gently used shoes for donation. In
September SYS invites everyone to come check out their new location for the
group’s open house. While more details
will be released concerning the open house, already they know the Jesse White
Tumblers will be in attendance along with live music.
Two running events will be affiliated with SYS this
year. Sunday, September 16 the Chiquita
Banana 5K in Brookfield Woods will have SYS as the official shoe charity. The biggest event, as it is for most
charities, is the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. The BOA Chicago Marathon will have SYS as
their official shoe charity as well and the charity will send a group of
runners to represent them as a charity team.
Last year Purdy alone raised nearly $60,000 and looks to double that
amount this year. Donations can be made
to Purdy or any of the teams runners at the Share Your Soles website. Information on any of their events, their new
location and charity specifics are also available on the website.