MILLINOCKET, Maine — Some of the 11,000 pairs of footware ICare Ministries donated Thursday to an international relief effort based in Tennessee might find their way to Japan, Pastor Herschel Hafford says.
Gathered from several thrift and wholesale stores in and north of Waterville, the shoes, boots, sandals and Crocs filled 41 watermelon boxes and were hauled away in a 53-foot tractor-trailer from the ministry’s storefront on Spring Street, Hafford said.
“Some of them are new; some of them are used. We had been selling these shoes for 40 cents a pound, but I think they have greater value if we make them available to different people in different parts of the world,” Hafford said Thursday.
“It’s given us an opportunity to reach other parts of the world that we would not have been able to reach ourselves in a humanitarian and generous way,” he added.
Hafford decided to donate the shoes to Soles4Souls Inc., a Nashville-based charity that collects shoes from the warehouses of footwear companies and donors, after seeing a segment about the charity on Fox News, he said.
The charity distributes the footwear to people in need and since 2005 has donated nearly 14 million pairs of new and gently worn shoes, said Jeremy Chandler, a social media and engagement manager at Soles4Souls.
The footwear has been distributed to people in 127 countries, including Haiti, Honduras, Kenya, Peru, Tanzania, Thailand, Nepal and the U.S. About 100,000 pairs have been earmarked to help tsunami victims in Japan, but it’s almost impossible to say where the ICare donation would go, said Chandler, who expressed gratitude for the ministry’s donation.
“We collect so many shoes and then, once they get back to one of our warehouses, they are sorted based on type, condition and other factors, and that determines where they are shipped to from there,” Chandler said.
The ICare shipment probably will go to an Alabama warehouse, Hafford said.
Besides being used as direct donations, the footwear goes to microbusinesses in Third World countries to help create economic opportunity, Chandler said.
The amount of footwear donated by Maine was not immediately available Thursday, Chandler said.
Hafford said he has hopes that his ministry eventually will become a Soles4Souls warehouse for Maine or the Northeast. Soles4Souls opened a warehouse in New Jersey a few weeks ago, and has no warehouses in New England, Chandler said.
Anyone interested in donating shoes, money or other items to ICare may call 723-7977. Mailings can go to the ministry care of 45 Spring St., Millinocket, ME 04462.