by Hilary Eaton | November 1st, 2011
Scott Sowle was homeless. And in need of shoes. Or more particularly, a good pair of work boots. He had procured a temporary job in day labor, but without suitable footwear he was unable to take it. The scarcity of shoes among the homeless was a trend Scott witnessed regularly during his time living on the streets in four major cities across the United States. And lack of footwear, Scott quickly realized, is also a significant and often overlooked barrier to employment.
While working to overcome his drug and alcohol addiction, Scott ended up in Seattle volunteering at the Union Gospel Mission, which provides food, shelter and long-term recovery care to Seattle’s homeless. Scott was disturbed by the consistent lack of footwear worn by new arrivals to the Mission. He frequently observed men arriving in badly tattered socks, with cardboard on their feet held together by duct tape, and even barefoot. In addition to resulting in serious health problems, Scott knew that without shoes, employment opportunities would diminish tremendously for these men.
During Scott’s volunteer work, a homeless, barefoot man came to the Mission with size-14 feet. Scott went to find him a pair of shoes from their stock of donated footwear, but found that not only were there no size-14 shoes, there were no more shoes at all! Scott contacted other charitable organizations in an attempt to find shoes for the homeless man, but to no avail. The shortage of footwear was a common problem for every organization he contacted. Additionally, Scott realized, most organizations that assist the homeless have various responsibilities and limited resources and are unable to focus solely on acquiring shoes.
This experience inspired Scott to take action. Making sure the Mission’s shoe shelves were stocked became a part of his own recovery program and with the help of local churches, schools, and businesses Scott began to set up successful shoe donation drives around Seattle. Initially, Scott would ride his bike to pick up and deliver the donated shoes to other social service organizations and directly to those in need. Scott’s personal altruism ultimately resulted in the formation of Redeeming Soles (aptly named, as Scott’s last name is Sowle, pronounced “sole”) – a charitable organization dedicated to “providing footwear to all in need throughout the Puget Sound.”
Redeeming Soles has, to date, distributed over 8,000 pairs of new and gently used shoes in the Puget Sound area and has developed partnerships with eight local agencies and nonprofit organizations. In August of 2011, Redeeming Soles was providing shoes to eight charitable organizations on a monthly basis. This is an incredible achievement, but there are still many organizations without steady “shoe-streams” and Redeeming Soles continues to work diligently to spread awareness and procure shoes for those in need.
Having appropriate shoes to wear for various occasions is something many of us take for granted. We have work shoes, fancy shoes, casual shoes, gym shoes, and comfy shoes. And with winter rapidly approaching, bad-weather shoes will become increasingly important. While we are warming our tootsies by our firesides this holiday season, we should also remember that Scott Sowle will be steadfastly peddling to make sure feet all around the Puget Sound stay warm and dry this winter. He won’t be able to do it without your help, however, so read on to find out ways that you can get involved!
Make a “Sole Impact”:
Drop-off gently used or new shoes at several Seattle locations. For a list of drop-off locations, visit www.redeemingsoles.org/make-an-impact/drop-off-locations/.
Wednesdays from 12pm-8pm and Fridays from 8am-1pm: Donate your time to sort and prepare shoes for distribution at the Redeeming Soles warehouse. For more information about volunteering, visit www.redeemingsoles.org/make-an-impact/volunteer/.
Host a Shoe Drive:
The 2011 Shoe Harvest drive is currently underway! Help Redeeming Soles reach its goal of collecting 20,000 shoes this season by hosting a shoe drive! Organizations, churches, schools, and individuals are all encouraged to participate. For more information on hosting a drive, visit www.redeemingsoles.org/make-an-impact/shoe-harvest-2011/.
Give Financial Support:
If you are a public employee and wish to contribute directly, sign up for payroll deduction at www.cfd.wa.gov and look up Redeeming Soles by their CFD #: 1480769
Donate to A Step For Hope Shoe Drive! For more information about donating, visit www.redeemingsoles.org/donate/.
For additional information about Redeeming Soles, visit www.redeemingsoles.org or call (206) 965-9850.