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After 5: What can a shoe do?

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Shoes wear out.

Gayla Wells, CEO of Springfield-based One Sole Purpose, and Terry Kleier, founder of Soles For Christ, another local group, are doing whatever they can to replace the shoes for individuals locally and around the globe.

And they have lofty goals.

Organizers at One Sole Purpose are laying the foundation to collect 5,700 pairs of shoes – enough to cover the feet of all Springfield Public Schools’ Title I elementary students. Title I schools – there are 21 in Springfield – are those with at least 40 percent of their students on the federal free or reduced lunch program.

“Earlier this year, we sent out a letter to all partners of education to (Springfield’s) Title I schools,” Wells says. “We anticipate working with Shoe Carnival (which) gave us a 20 percent discount off retail. We’re working toward getting better pricing this year.”

Last year, the group presented all 330 children at Weller Elementary School with new Converse Chuck Taylor All Star shoes.

A meeting is scheduled March 17 at High Street Baptist Church with Title I school principals and other interested parties, Wells says.

“We’re not depending just on the partners to get the money,” Wells says. “We’ll lay out our plan and answer any questions.”

Atlas Security has indicated it would help, as will host High Street Baptist, Wells says. The church plans to hold 5K, 10K and one-mile runs at 8 a.m. May 14 starting at the church, 900 N. Eastgate Ave.

Another business partnership has come in the person of graphic designer Keith Locke, the group’s brand manager who helped design, business logos and fliers, Wells says.
Wells says a goal for this year is to encourage the community as a whole to participate, adding that the benefits impact donors and students alike.

“It starts to make the community as a whole more close-knit,” Wells says. “It’s more than just giving shoes away, it’s letting the kids know we care. You can’t tell a first-grader, ‘You don’t qualify.’ A first-grader doesn’t get it.”

Soles For Christ originated as a mission project at Springfield’s Hamlin Memorial Baptist Church, 829 W. Atlantic St.

“The way it originated, we had a couple opportunities to go into homeless areas,” says Kleier, a member at Hamlin Memorial. “Noticing shoes they had were really worn out, we only had the shoes on our feet to give them.”

Kleier says trips to Houston twice and Denver gave them the opportunity to use shoes as their ministry.

“They realized we were willing to take shoes off and give them,” Kleier says.

Cash donations from marketing firms Noble Communications, where Kleier works as facilities manager, and firm 2 Balance, which also donated Web site work, and from concrete company Regional Ready Mix have helped fund trips to Nicaragua and South Africa. Locally, funding has helped the group buy shoes for Reed Middle School’s basketball teams. Bowerman Elementary School is the next target.

“Shoes being such a practical need for people, they tend to listen,” Kleier says. “I’ve had lots of interest of people wanting to go into Reed and other lower-income schools. When you’re talking about giving shoes away, people welcome you. It’s been a great avenue for us, through our church.”[[In-content Ad]]


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