Youth Volunteers at Rushville Warehouse
Volunteers at The Sharing Place & Zion Lutheran Church- Out Reach Ministries
Do you know what happens with your old sports shoes or trainers that are unsuitable for redistribution?
The ReUse-A-Shoe programme from Nike answers this question. Nike collects these old sports shoes and converts them into a recycled material suitable for the re-manafacturing processes. This material is called: Nike Grind.
There is a Nike Grind donation box at the Nike store at the Edinburg Outlet Mall.
Take a look in your closet. How many pairs of shoes do you have? Five? Twenty-five? Fifty? How many can you do without? Changing Footprints would like your leftovers. The Central Indiana nonprofit collects thousands of shoes every year and distributes them to dozens of social service agencies in the Indianapolis area, as well as 17 countries.
Maureen Leisure, Bob Broughton and their committee of volunteers are the brains and heart behind this grass-roots effort that operates on a shoestring budget. Leisure launched the organization in 2005 with help from Broughton after she was moved by something she saw on the news about Afghanistan. American doctors were tending to Afghanis who had fled their homes during the war and were living in tent cities up in the mountains.
"They were enduring freezing temperatures in a rocky climate, and many of them had no shoes," she said. Foot injuries often led to lost limbs. "It was a time in my life when I felt a great need to give back. I was single and didn't have much money, but I still felt there were things I could do," Leisure said.
So, she recruited Broughton, at the time her co-worker at Emerson Climate Technologies, and together they decided the first thing they could do was gather shoes. Soon, Leisure said, "my dining room was ceiling high with boxes of shoes" — new and used. Then Hurricane Katrina hit, and the young nonprofit hooked up with a trucking company that gathered all the shoes and took them to a Red Cross staging area for distribution to Katrina victims.
Things really took off when Changing Footprints was invited to set up shop at the 500 Festival Mini-Marathon Expo the following year. Runners donated thousands of pairs of shoes. Many who bought new shoes at the event "gave us the shoes off their feet," Leisure said. Brooks Shoes donated 6,000 more. At that point, the organization needed some serious storage space.
Today, Changing Footprints operates out of donated space in a 100-year-old warehouse in Rushville, as well as donated office space in Indianapolis. Volunteers come in every week to the Rushville site to sort shoes, clean them and stock them. Every Saturday, from 10 a.m. to noon, anyone can come to the warehouse, 300 Julian St., Rushville, to get shoes. No strings attached. Leisure recalls one mom who had no money to buy shoes for her 13-year-old son. When he came to the warehouse to try on a few pairs Leisure had set aside for him, he removed the tight shoes he had been wearing. "I was heartsick when I saw his feet. Every toe had a blister on it, and there were red sores on both feet from the shoes." He walked away with six pairs of new socks and two pairs of shoes. He was beaming, while his mom cried tears of relief, Leisure said.
In Indianapolis, volunteers deliver shoes regularly to social service agencies. Last year, the group gave out 6,000 pairs of shoes to individuals, mission groups, shelters, relief groups and other organizations around the world, Leisure said. Among them locally: Wheeler Mission, Dress for Success, Children's Bureau, the Julian Center and Coats for Kids.
Along the way, Leisure has met amazing partners — businesses and people who have answered her prayers when she was desperate for help. Trucking companies, moving companies, retailers, construction crews, attorneys — all have had a hand in putting shoes on others' feet. "There are a lot of people out there who are happy to do stuff like this, but they don't always get the opportunity," Leisure said. "If you reach out and ask them specifically, they're really happy to help. Through the years, we have been blessed with so many people who have helped us."
Leisure is 69 now and retired from her paying job, but she spends many hours a week in her shoe "shop." She marvels at how far Changing Footprints has come in its 11 years but worries about its future. "We need to get younger people involved," she said. Volunteers can host shoe drives, sort, collect or deliver shoes, or help with professional services — writing, graphic design, creating videos and computer support.
Shoe collection sites can be found throughout the area, including the Jewish Community Center, Blue Mile stores, Stride Rite, Indianapolis Racquet Club and Goodman's Shoes.