SUMTER, SC (WIS) - Imagine the only pair of shoes you own is two left ones. Or you own only one shoe and your neighborhood is filled with poisonous snakes, insects or deadly parasites. For a young girl and woman living in Africa, this is reality. They are among the stories Nashville singer/songwriter Tiffany Johnson tells.
"I get to talk about the mission with people all across the United States," says Johnson, who is Outreach Coordinator for Soles4Souls.
She was back in her hometown of Sumter last week to encourage people to donate their new and used shoes to Soles4Souls. The shoes are shipped to needy countries all over the world.
"To be able to come home and go to the school district I grew up in and work with friends that I've known all my life and just see their excitement and enthusiasm for it, it takes on a whole other meaning for me. I'm very grateful for the involvement locally."
One of the schools she visited, Manning Early Childhood Academy, was the beneficiary of a shoe donations a few years ago.
"They have a student body of close to 700 pre-K through 1st Graders and they brought shoes for us and it was wonderful to see that come full circle."
Soles4Souls accepts any kind of shoes, even high heels or fashion styles that may not seem practical in the tropical jungle of Haiti or the savannah of Africa. Those shoes go toward a micro-enterprise program, which sets people up with shoe-selling businesses in their communities.
"We create micro-enterprise opportunities, small business opportunities for men, women in countries like Haiti, Honduras, Moldova in eastern Europe, who would not have job opportunities" Johnson says. "And we're able to create a sustainable job opportunity through the shoes that we no longer want."
Their greatest need is children's shoes. In Haiti, for example, a child without shoes is not allowed to attend school.
"We never have enough children's shoes," Johnson says.
Johnson says for every dollar donated to Soles4Souls, one pair of shoes are given to someone in need. They have distributed 22 million pairs of shoes in 127 countries, including needy people in South Carolina.
"We're always going to have a need for shoes," says Johnson. "There's 400 million children that live in the world that are in abject poverty. Their feet are only growing, so we're going to need more and more shoes every year."
Johnson and her friend, Crystal Kirlis, have a goal of raising 30,000 pairs of shoes by the end of October. Contact them via email.
For more information about Soles4Souls, or to donate, Click here.
Below is a list of drop-off sites:
Manning Early Childhood Center
2759 Raccoon Rd
Scott Will Toyota
2540 Broad St
40 W. Wesmark Blvd.
Dayelynn Spa and Becky's Boutique
1165 N Guignard Drive
Sumter, SC (across from Time Warner Cable)
31 W Wesmark
721 B Bultman Drive
Miss Libby's School of Dance
155 W Wesmark Blvd.
Sumter, SC 29150
Fleet Feet Sports
945 Lake Murray Blvd
Irmo, SC 29063
Gilbert High School
Two Notch Road
Gilbert, SC 29054