Donate soles for souls

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Suffolk residents visiting Suffolk businesses might notice a “sole-filled” charity effort these days.

That’s because three local businesses – the Suffolk Family YMCA, the North Main Street Chick-fil-A and the North Main Street SunTrust Bank – have teamed up with Soles 4 Souls to collect new or gently worn, clean shoes for those who have never owned a pair of shoes.

Soles 4 Souls is a shoe charity that collects new or gently worn shoes to give to those in need. The shoes are distributed to inner city hospitals, homeless shelters, domestic abuse shelters, American Indian reservations, summer camps for disadvantaged children, the Appalachian Mountains region, and anywhere families are recovering from a natural disaster. Internationally, the shoes are given to orphanages, poor villages and natural disaster areas in numerous countries. More than 300 million children worldwide have never had one pair of shoes, according to the charity.

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Locally, Janet Gurwell is trying to change that.

Gurwell said she can’t remember where she heard about Soles 4 Souls, but she believes the organization is a worthwhile one.

“They help people who are in what I would like to think is a dire strait,” Gurwell said. “These people amass the shoes, they go to the area of need, and they distribute shoes that have been rehabilitated or given new.”

While many of us are used to choosing shoes for comfort or style, the people receiving shoes from Soles 4 Souls need them for health care reasons. The shoes help prevent cuts and infectious diseases for people for whom walking is usually the only means of transportation.

The charity is a worthy organization that Gurwell would like to see become a big thing in Suffolk, she said.

“We have a pair of shoes to go with every outfit,” she said. “Some people have never worn a pair of shoes, ever. I think this is just a worthwhile organization and I would like to see Suffolk take hold of it.”

Soles 4 Souls takes any kind of shoe, Gurwell said.

“They will take your gardening shoes, and they will take your Prada high heels you never wore,” she said.

People are invited to drop off their shoes at the three businesses currently collecting shoes. Gurwell also is looking for other businesses willing to host drop-off boxes. Shoes are tax-deductible for $6 per pair. For more information, call Gurwell at 434-1405 or visit