How gently used sneakers can circle the globe of life

Posted 4/19/17

More than a few zingers begged to be thrown in the direction of the semi-annual Household Hazardous Waste Collection Day two weeks ago, when organizers invited local residents to bring their domestic …

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How gently used sneakers can circle the globe of life

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More than a few zingers begged to be thrown in the direction of the semi-annual Household Hazardous Waste Collection Day two weeks ago, when organizers invited local residents to bring their domestic toxins for safe disposal, as well as a pair of gently used — or new — sneakers as a fundraising donation to Cleveland/Bradley Keep America Beautiful.

One of this newspaper’s headlines on the front page even read, “Toxins, sneakers sought Saturday during HHWCD.”

How many lighthearted phone calls, emails and “Letters to the Editor” were we going to receive from good-natured folks asking the inevitable question, “What’s that they want us to bring Saturday ... toxic sneakers, is it?”

Well, almost.

Household toxins, yes.

Gently used or new sneakers, yes.

Toxic sneakers, no.

Sometime ago in a personal column on the Editorial Page, one of our editors even wrote about the longevity of a pair of his old running shoes that devolved into a set of yard shoes used for mowing, mulching, landscaping, chainsawing, painting, pressure washing, raking, building and pruning, among an array of other “-ings,” for another two, three or more years. During that period, the shoes went unwashed, unappreciated and conceivably unloved.

In time, they truly became toxic sneakers — not the type of donation KAB is seeking for its program-friendly fundraiser.

Obviously, we jest — just for the moment — at an otherwise serious cause. Truth is, the KAB campaign is an innovative idea that serves as a “win-win-win” for a string of individual and people movements.

The local drive — called Sneakers4Funds — ends May 31, so for those wanting to contribute new or gently used sneakers or athletic shoes, here’s what it is and how it works.

On behalf of KAB, sneakers are being collected at seven different locations. All sizes — for men, women and children — are welcome. At the drive’s completion, all shoes will be handed over to KAB. The much-respected nonprofit organization will then sell the footwear to a company called Funds2Orgs.

Funds2Orgs will then sell the shoes to people in developing countries who will use them to launch their own small businesses. The shoes are sold to them for “pennies on the dollar,” according to Funds2Orgs. In these Third World countries, the small businesses are providing a needed product — shoes — and the buy and sell of this footwear is stimulating the cash flow of impoverished areas, some of which are rural villages or forgotten ghettoes in distant pockets of backward cities.

Funds2Orgs calls it a “micro-enterprise” opportunity as a way to provide would-be business owners in other lands a “hand up” out of the poverty cycle.

While the shoe donations are helping impoverished people oceans or continents away, they are also helping to support KAB programming in this country. And locally, it’s an environmental boost because the donated shoes represent that many more pounds of refuse not dumped into the Bradley County Landfill.

Joanne Maskew, executive director of the local KAB affiliate, summed it up well when she told our newspaper, “They are keeping millions of shoes out of the landfill, and it benefits us and those getting the shoes. It works out great for everybody.”

That’s what such initiatives are all about. They help everyone — from the root source (the donors) to the final target (the recipients).

Even more significantly, the outreach spans the globe. In a Tennessee U.S.A. hometown called Cleveland, donors are taking a positive step and they’re helping their environment; and somewhere in an unseen land — where pennies to their people are like gold to Americans — a tiny business is taking root, and a family, or families, are getting a deserved chance to change their lives and the lives of others within their surround.

Specifically, Sneakers4Funds proceeds will help KAB’s children’s awareness programs. It’s a perfect plan. If America is going to save herself from her own environmental recklessness, such notions must start with our young people.

It’s called instilling good habits in the youngsters today who will be our leaders tomorrow.

For those wanting to donate new or gently used sneakers, the collection points include:

1. Santek Waste Services, 650 25th St.;

2. Lee University Humanities Center, first floor, 1250 Parker St. N.E.;

3. The Boys and Girls Club (Tucker Unit, Blythe Unit, Painter Unit and Cleveland State Unit);

4. Ocoee Middle School, 2250 North Ocoee St.;

5. Lake Forest Middle School, 610 Kile Lake Road;

6. Cleveland Middle School, 3635 Georgetown Road N.W.; and

7. Cleveland Family YMCA, 220 Urbane Road.

For more information, email jmaskew@clevelandtn.gov or call 423-559-3307.

There’s nothing toxic about these sneaker donations. This is about growing opportunities, preserving life and giving the forgotten families of this life the kind of chance they might never have been given before.

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