Getting people back on their feet

McIntrye Library helps donate shoes to recycle usable parts and disaster relief with shoe drive Soles4Souls

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Photo by Angel Vang

Jenna Van Zande, library services assistant for research and instruction, holds pairs of shoes donated to McIntyre Library’s shoe drive Soles4Souls. The donated shoes are either recycled for usable parts or help with disaster relief.

As students and community members realize their shoes either do not snuggle their feet quite right anymore, are collecting dust or have just gone out of style, the big Soles4Souls bin at McIntyre Library is slowly beginning to overflow.

And as the bin is overflowing, the Research and Instruction suite is being filled with a galore of shoes waiting for Jenna Vande, library services assistant for Research and Instruction, to count them.

McIntyre Library celebrated Earth Week by launching the Soles4Souls shoe drive for the first time. They extended the drive to a long-term event to the end of the semster for both students and the community.

With this drive, Vande Zande said she wants to bring the campus and community closer.

“We’re always trying to create initiatives that take campus and community and bring them closer,” Vande Zande said. “We also try to get community members, people or students who don’t normally come to the library to come.”

Besides helping students get rid of shoes they don’t need, the main purpose of Soles4Souls is to do something that would help not only with disaster relief but also long-term solutions for people, Vande Zande said.

The money raised is partially donated to a micro-enterprise program and partially recycled to buy new shoes and clothes for disaster relief.

Vande Zande said Soles4Souls saw the TOM’s model and realized giving away brand new shoes all the time  floods the market and kills the used goods sale. These families are destitute and no longer had any way to support themselves, she said.

After the drive, the shoes get sent off to distribution centers and processed into three different categories, she said.

New shoes are distributed to the U.S and abroad immediately. Good condition shoes are sold to companies in South America and central Asia where people may not have the economic ability to start their own business, but they fix and resell them for a profit. Shoes in poor condition are sold to either Pakistan or California where the shoes will be taken apart into usable parts to be recycled.

There has been such a great community response that Vande Zande said she hopes they turn the drive into a yearly event in honor of Earth Week. They just recently partnered with the Eau Claire Marathon to put a box at their expo.

“Now that we have planning and foresight,” she said, “hopefully we’ll be able to establish some other drop off sites in the community and use this as our central hub.”

Jill Markgraf, head of Research and Instruction, was one of the people who donated to Soles4Souls. Other than giving her an excuse to buy more shoes, she said it will help the low income population.

“It’s a small contribution, but on a small scale it helps people in underserved areas, develop small businesses and also the recycling of the shoes will also help people who need basic footwear,” she said.

While raising awareness for those in need or suffering from disastrous events, Markgraf said this drive allows the library to create new ways to serve the community, whether local or global.

“It was a great initiative to identify the cause and realize a library is just a great central place for things like this to happen and the overwhelming success of this drive,” Markgraf said. “It raises awareness of the library specifically as a civic organization and something that serves our community in more ways than books.”