Haiti shoe drive draws many donors

A shoe store’s drive for shoes for earthquake victims in Haiti has brought out souls as it has gathered soles.

“I can’t tell you how many people have come in here in tears” bearing shoes, sandals and any other variety of footwear to be sent to Haiti, Brown’s Shoe Fit owner Gregg Palmer said. “People appreciate a way to help.”

Brown’s Shoe Fit, 425 Main St., began collecting on behalf of Soles4Souls, an organization founded after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, soon after the news of damage from the 7.0-magnitude earthquake began to filter out of the country, the most impoverished in the Western Hemisphere.

Not long after the announcement was posted on GJSentinel.com, students from Mesa State College showed up with arms full of shoes to be sent to Haiti via downtown Grand Junction.

After that, the shoes just kept coming.

About 100 boxes, each containing 35 to 50 pairs of shoes or sandals, were being packed Monday for pickup on the first leg of the voyage from chilly western Colorado to hot, humid Haiti.

“Thank you for doing this,” one man told Palmer on Monday afternoon, delivering a laundry basket full of shoes to the store.

Another man, carrying a stuffed, oversized Bed, Bath & Beyond bag, nodded silent assent.

When he opened the doors Monday morning, shoes were stacked high at the front and rear entrances, Palmer said.

Many donors had simply dropped off cash, as well, he said. A group of hairdressers put some money together and bought about 300 pairs of sandals around town, then took them to Brown’s, Palmer said.

“It’s just non-stop,” Palmer said.

Brown’s Shoe Fit wasn’t alone in seeing overflowing generosity.

The Western Colorado Chapter of the American Red Cross, which on Saturday conducted a phone-a-thon seeking donations for Haiti, had collected about $47,000 by Monday, Executive Director David Hintch said.

In Fruita, 10 percent of daily proceeds at Pancho’s Villa II, 229 E. Aspen Ave., will be donated to the Red Cross Haiti relief effort.

Inside Brown’s Shoe Fit, employee Kelly Wampler was working on her day off to sort the shoes with her 8-year-old son, Johnny.

“We’re learning how to help people,” Wampler said. “We thought that would be a very productive way to spend our day.”

A donation of large boxes by Ashley Furniture made the sorting job easier and Palmer said he hoped to get many of the boxes on a Mesa Systems truck already bound for Las Vegas for a nominal cost.

Hintch of the American Red Cross was heartened to call friends in Haiti, where he worked before moving to Grand Junction, with news of the money raised for the disaster, Hintch said.

“When people are behind you, that goes a long ways for morale,” he said. “It keeps them going.”

In Fruita, Pancho’s Villa II will run breakfast and dinner specials and have a children’s coloring contest.

In the meantime, Brown’s will continue taking shoes through the week, Palmer said.


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