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Soles4Souls is a Nashville-based charity, founded by Wayne Elsey in 2005, that collects shoes from the warehouses of footwear companies and runs shoe drives to collect donations from communities across the United States. The charity distributes these shoes free of charge to people in need, regardless of race, religion, class, or any other criteria. Since 2005, Soles4Souls has distributed over 19 million pairs of shoes, currently donating one pair every seven seconds. The shoes have been distributed to people in over 129 countries, including Kenya, Thailand, Nepal, Haiti, Japan and the United States. Soles4Souls has been featured in Runner's World, Ladies' Home Journal, National Geographic's The Green Guide, and The New York Times. The organization has appeared on CBS, ABC, NBC, FOX, BBC, and thousands of regional news outlets across North America. Soles4Souls is a 501(c)(3) recognized by the IRS and donating parties are eligible for tax advantages.
Notable celebrities that have worked with Soles4Souls include Jessica Alba, Jessica Simpson, Kellie Pickler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Sir Elton John, the Kardashian sisters, Justin Timberlake, John Krasinski, Michelle Pfeiffer, Mariska Hargitay, Yoko Ono, and the TODAY show cast. Soles4Souls set up a celebrity shoe auction that ran from June 1 to June 22, 2011, auctioning off shoes from the SNL cast, Spike Lee, game shoes from Lamar Odom and signed game cleats from Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, C.C. Sabathia, Joe Girardi, and Robinson Canó.
The Kenneth Cole Foundation partnered with Soles4Souls in 2010 on a nationwide shoe drive and launch of a retail program to raise money for the construction of a community wellness center in Haiti. The program, which ran from August 3 to September 16, encouraged customers to bring in their new or gently worn shoes, and donate funds to support the building of the center. Customers could choose to donate $10 at checkout when buying online, or donate directly via the Kenneth Cole website to support the construction of the Kenneth Cole-Soles4Souls sustained Community Wellness Center for children and adults in earthquake-torn Haiti. The community wellness center planned to include a recreation area, classes for HIV and AIDS awareness and prevention, along with education and treatment for Hookworm, one of the most common diseases affecting children and adults in Haiti. Michael Franti was heavily involved in the efforts, named an ambassador for Soles4Souls in 2010. Franti put on a "Barefoot Concert Series" for the organization, collecting donations at each concert.
Soles4Souls manages a micro-enterprise operation in Haiti, contracting with established micro-enterprise distributors to transport and distribute used shoes to Central America, South America, and Africa. Once in the country, the distributors’ networks of micro-enterprise business operators receive inventories of shoes to sell. In many cases, the operators receive the shoes on credit and only have to pay for the shoes if they sell them. Shoes are in high demand for micro-enterprise because they are universally needed and valued, can be easily bartered for other goods, and are a tangible commodity that is easy to transport and sell.
Soles4Souls set up a national holiday for their cause called "National Barefoot Week" that occurs in the first week of June each year. During this week, the Soles4Souls organization encourages participation and activism regarding the issue of access to basic necessities like shoes. They encourage people to go barefoot and tell others about the experience, get together with their local communities to run a shoe drive, and raise awareness on social media outlets by changing their profile pictures to bare feet. Soles4Souls also selects cities in the United States to distribute thousands of pairs of shoes to during this week.
Soles4Souls has teamed up with many other companies and organizations including the skateboarding company DC Shoe Company, Miss Me Jeans, Blac Label Premium, Artisans, New Balance, Converse, and American Apparel, who donated more than 5,000 pairs of socks in 2010 for relief efforts after the earthquake that devastated Haiti.
The organization also partners with Flipflop Wines to create the "Soles4Souls flippin' good deeds challenge" which challenges bloggers to lead shoe drives and encourage their communities to donate gently worn footwear. In return, bloggers have the chance to win a trip for two on an international shoe distribution trip with Soles4Souls, where they can deliver the shoes they have collected in-person to those in need.
The Rome Braves held a shoe drive to benefit Sole4Souls, collecting shoes at the State Mutual Stadium August 1–13, 2011. For each pair of shoes donated, the Rome Braves gave a free general admission ticket voucher for the final homestand of the season, held August 22–30.