While most of us take a good pair of shoes for granted, for many others it’s a godsend. To that end, there’s a nationwide effort – including in Pensacola -- to provide shoes to the homeless.
From June 15 through July 16, Waterfront Rescue Mission is on “A Sole Mission.” All seven Waterfront thrift stores – along with numerous churches and businesses – are collecting footwear across northwest Florida and south Alabama.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to live without a pair of shoes, but it ain’t easy; especially how hot and terrible and bug-infested it gets here in Florida,” said Paul Stadden, a spokesman for Waterfront. “Our goal is that the needy would get something that’s going to help them. Maybe that’s the one thing they need to go do the things that’s going to help them get a job; reconnect with their family, whatever it may be. Shoes are not a small thing.”
Sole Mission has been a part of Waterfront’s programs for a number of years, and are constantly looking for creative ways to help those in need. Stadden says the numbers increase from year to year, as do the metrics and number of partners. As a faith-based organization, Waterfront Rescue Mission is using Sole Mission to expand their service to mankind, according to the Scriptures.
“We offer rescue and recovery in Jesus’ name,” Stadden said. “We are commanded – not asked, not requested by God – we are commanded to show goodness and grace to our fellow man. And what we want to do is, we want to do those things that will be able to help spur them on to something new, something good and something great.”
For those who can “spare a pair” – or two or three -- all types of shoes are needed.
“Men’s shoes, women’s shoes, children’s shoes; flip-flops, dress shoes, casual, whatever,” said Stadden. “The only thing we would ask is if you wouldn’t buy it, we would ask you not to donate it. They’ve got to be in new, or gently-used condition. That way, the people who are either receiving them or the people who would buy them in the thrift store are going to see it and say, ‘That’s for me.’”
According to the Mission, roughly 800 people – men, women and children – are homeless in Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties. Next door in Alabama, Mobile and Baldwin Counties have similar numbers. For them, a new or gently-used pair of shoes can be more than a convenience; they can provide protection, but also boost self-esteem and perhaps change a life.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to go to a job interview without shoes; I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to walk down [U.S.] Highway 98 without shoes,” said Stadden. “This is one small thing that we can help and add on to somebody, that maybe they can make that change. Maybe they can turn something around.”
Not all of the donated shoes will be distributed. The leftovers will serve a purpose as well in the Waterfront thrift stores – which account for about 35% of the mission’s budget.
“A pair of shoes get sold for five bucks, that’s five more dollars the mission has aimed towards rescue and recovery,” Stadden said. “
And after you donate the shoes – or if you don’t have any, then cash donations work just as well – Waterfront Mission’s Paul Stadden asks that you let them know about your gift --- 21st century style.
“You drop in a pair of shoes, there’s a hashtag on the front of that poster,” said Stadden. “So if you could just do #asolemission on your Facebook post or your Twitter post or Instagram or whatever, we can see that it’s working and we can see that you, the community, are responding.”
More information on “A Sole Mission” can be found at www.waterfrontmission.org.