by Neal Lebar (President of ICS Shoes)
My wife and I live in Sarasota, FL and enjoy walking on the beach as often as possible. A few weeks ago we had parked our car and were walking along the sidewalk, adjacent to Lido beach. We noticed a homeless man with his basket and life belongings, standing on the sidewalk, not wearing any shoes. Just then, another man walked up to him, leaned over, took off his sneakers, and handed them to the homeless person. They looked at each other, nodded, and walked on, like nothing happened. As I passed the man who had given up his shoes, I said, "that was really nice for you to do that." He simply acknowledged me and walked on. We proceeded to the beach, spent a few hours enjoying the surf as we walked along the shore.
A few years prior to the experience above, we visited Casey Key beach in Sarasota. We took off our sandals, and left them to the side as we took our typical walk in the sand. When we got back, my sandals were gone. I looked at my wife and said, "that really pisses me off, someone stealing my sandals." She said, "I guess they needed them more than you." Her response took me by surprise, but it got me thinking... well, maybe she's right. I thought about the millions of people who don't have shoes and all the shoes I have in my closet. I was able to easily buy another pair of sandals and realized how fortunate I am.
We've been in the online shoe business for about 8 years. Some shoes are returned to us that we cannot send back to the manufacturer for a credit. We accumulate several pairs of shoes each month. Every few months we donate them to our local homeless shelter. I'm always amazed at how excited they are when we arrive, with our car full of brand new shoes. They thank us and let us know that many of the people need shoes for job interviews and to simply work. So many of these people need boots, sneakers, and even dress shoes. After all, these shoes are just sitting in our offices, taking up space. It's always a great feeling that we were able to help a few people in need.
As we age our bodies and feet change. Many people find that they need wider shoes but cannot find them in retail stores. If they do find wide or x-wide shoes, the options are very limited. The good news is, there are now hundreds of Styles of Wide shoes, all sold online. The manufacturers are now making fashionable Comfort shoes that fit a wide range of sizes and widths. Companies you've probably never heard of are selling their shoes online: Dr Comfort, Drew, Orthofeet, I-Runner, Dr Zen, Apis, Apex, Xelero, InStride, Ros Hommerson... are the leading manufacturers. There are companies like Revere who are now making Wide sandals with removable inserts, that will accommodate orthotics. The shoe industry is responding to the needs but most retail stores only carry medium width shoes, or a small number of Wide shoes.
On our way back from walking on Lido beach, on that same sidewalk, we passed the homeless person. As we passed by, I noticed him glancing at his shoes, with a smile on his face. I nodded to him as we passed by. I couldn't help thinking of all the people so fortunate to have a closet full of shoes they could no longer wear.
If a person is willing to give up the shoes on their feet, why can't we all go through our closets and donate all the shoes we can no longer wear. You too can easily help people in your community with a Small Act of Kindness!