Giving Is Good For The Soul

Every Kid Deserves A New Pair Of Shoes

Soles4Souls, one of the top-rated nonprofits in the country, has made a huge impact in the lives of so many. Since 2006, the nonprofit has been collecting new and used shoes and clothing to help people both locally and around the world.

Today, with its 4EveryKid program, began in 2020, school children experiencing homelessness no longer have to feel like they don’t belong, or be subject to bullying because of what they’re wearing on their feet.

“About four years ago, we were introduced to Catherine Knowles, who heads up the HERO (Homeless Education Resource Office) program in the Metro Nashville Public Schools system,” says Rod Arnold, chief marketing officer for Soles4Souls. “The program is responsible for assisting all the kids in the area experiencing homelessness.”

Catherine shared a story about a girl named Lyla who was in and out of different homes and showed up to school one day with the only shoes she owned, which was one pink flip flop and one pink cowboy boot. While the HERO program bought her a pair of shoes, they didn’t have the budget for shoes, and there was such a huge need.

“At that time, there were about 3,000 kids experiencing homelessness in Nashville; now, it's about 4,000 kids,” he says.

It was then that Soles4Souls made a commitment to provide a new pair of shoes to these children every year. Rod says, “We started the 4EveryKid program in Nashville and we're expanding it. In Middle Tennessee, there are about 10,000 kids experiencing homelessness in our schools and nationally it’s about 1.5 million. We’re working our way to getting all these kids new shoes every year.

“Whether it's a 10-year-old or a 15-year-old who goes to school with shoes that don't fit or that are torn up or are old and have holes in them, it's hard to feel like you belong, and those things matter a lot. Plus, when shoes are too tight, that discomfort can make it hard for children to concentrate and learn. Conversely, shoes that are too large can be a trip and fall hazard."

He adds, “When you give kids a new pair of shoes, there’s this big shift in how they feel about themselves and their level of confidence. So far, we’ve distributed about 130,000 pairs of shoes through this program. We collect a lot of data from the schools, and we see that these kids are now more likely to attend school, plus we're starting to see that their grades are going up, and they are more likely to participate in gym class and extracurricular activities such as sports. So, it has had a tremendous effect on them.”

Thanks to partnerships with Footlocker, Reebok, Under Armor, Shaquille O’Neal’s branded sneakers and others, Soles4Souls has been able to purchase shoes at wholesale costs.

The nonprofit is busy raising money to buy these shoes. It costs about $20 to provide each kid with a pair of shoes. While Soles4Souls collects used shoes for some of their other programs, he says, “We feel like these kids deserve the dignity of a new pair of shoes.”

There are big plans for back-to-school. “Our goal is to give new shoes to 100,000 kids this upcoming school year,” says Rod.

In addition to its 4EveryKid program, Soles4Souls provides three other programs: 4Relief, 4ThePlanet and 4Opportunity. 


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