Cardboard boxes asking for donated shoes have been in local businesses, the schools, post offices, banks, and other locations, for the past month.  Neal and Marcia Bosshardt, Redmond, are behind this shoe drive in the area and are grateful for the community’s support in a project they believe holds significant value.

              “We got involved in Soles4Souls through our granddaughter, Melanie Grob, who is the daughter of our daughter Ann,” said Neal Bosshardt. “Melanie was named Miss Washington County and with that honor she is now eligible to participate in the Miss Utah pageant.  One of the requirements to run for Miss Utah is to participate in this shoe drive, or Soles4Souls.”

              Bosshardt said he questioned the charity in the beginning because he didn’t want to put heart and soul into a cause which would negatively affect third world countries’ economies.  He doesn’t believe in destroying struggling businesses, and he doesn’t support creating more dependance, but to his great joy, he found that this program actually helps build businesses.

              “This organization, Soles4Souls, takes gently used shoes and sells them for peanuts (pennies) to women in third world countries who want to build a shoe business in their area to support and feed their families,” said Bosshardt. “So not only do they help fight poverty by helping people launch and sustain their own small business, but they also empower women.  That is something I can really get behind and support wholeheartedly.”

              He said a portion of the shoes donated to go towards disaster relief, supporting homelessness, and orphanages, but the majority go towards fighting poverty, and additionally, by repurposing unwanted items and putting them to good use, the shoes are kept out of landfills which helps protect the planet.

              In further researching the charity, Bosshardt uses sites such as charity navigator or charity watch, which rate charities as to their transparency, efficiency, and the percentage of goods donated which actually go to their intended targets.  He, personally, is hesitant to support charities with less than 80%- that’s something he considers a good rating, though the higher the better, and acknowledges it does take some overhead to run things. Soles4Souls has a 97% ranking on charity navigator which he says is unbelievably high.

              “With this information, I became more and more impressed with Soles4Souls, and they actually name the Miss Utah organization in a specific thank you for the quantity of shoes donated,” said Bosshardt. “This is something I can personally get behind, and we’ve been so fortunate that the community has been so generous in supporting it as well.”

              He said he left a box at North Sevier Middle School, and a few days later they called and asked him to come get the TEN boxes of shoes which had been donated. The boxes at the senior center, bank, and both Redmond and Aurora’s post offices have been filled, families have brought bags of shoes by their home, and some new pairs with tags have even been donated.

              “It’s been neat to see people’s generosity,” he said. “They say new or gently used shoes, so they’ll take anything, but there have been a lot of nice shoes donated and it’s amazing to see people supporting this endeavor.”

              After the shoes are gathered, they must be sorted and paired together with an elastic band, then they’ll turn them over to the Miss Utah organization to take it from there.  The drive will continue throughout the month of April so get your spring cleaning done and clear out those closets.

              Since 2006 Soles4Souls has distributed more than 73 million pairs of shoes and pieces of clothing to 129 countries and all 50 states.  Their belief is that without shoes, people are vulnerable to disease and are often unable to attend school or look for work in addition to empowering people to build a small business and escape poverty. Dell, Under Armor, Adidas, Bombas, and Kroger are a few of the brands partnering with the organization, and more information can be found on their website

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Lora Fielding

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