CARIBOU, Maine — Most people look under the couch cushions while scrounging up a couple of bucks, but at the Halfway Home Pet Rescue, they check their shoes.
The Caribou-based cat rescue recently became active with the company Shoebox Recycling and for every 40 pounds of shoes the shelter collects, they’ll get $20 from the company.
Like all funds generated and donated to the shelter, every dollar is spent carefully.
With about $20, the shelter could buy either:
• Six 20 pound bags of cat litter — an amount would currently last the shelter about two days;
• One parasite prevention treatment dose for a single cat in addition to its deworming;
• Rabies and distemper vaccines for one cat — both diseases are fatal to unvaccinated felines;
• A 14 pound bag of Purina Kitten Chow; or
• About 18 gallons of bleach — to keep the shelter clean and sanitary, volunteers use approximately a dozen gallons a week.
More expensive treatments require more shoes. Neutering a male cat, for instance, costs about as much two 40 pound boxes of shoes.
“For every 25 boxes of recycled shoes, our organization will receive $500,” said HHPR President Norma Milton. The pet rescue already has three boxes packed to the brim and another box about halfway full.
As Vice President of Marketing and Business Development Lisa Pomerantz explained, “In terms of fundraising, we put the ‘fun’ back in it; you don’t have to sell anything and you don’t have to purchase anything.”
Instead, fundraising with Shoebox Recycling is as simple as checking closets for still-functional shoes that would otherwise be sent to the landfill.
Shoes with holes in them (other than the ones the manufacturer intentionally placed) are not counted toward the pound-count of collected shoes; after the boxes are sent to Shoebox Recycling, they’re sent to developing nations where they’re affordably sold by individuals who are able to make a liveable wage through the sales.
Echoing the mission of Shoebox Recycling, Milton explained that she likes the program because it keeps the shoes out of the landfills and on the feet of those who need it, while creating good jobs for people a world away and, of course, raising money to keep Aroostook’s feral and abandoned cats healthy and happy.
Individuals looking to donate shoes need to remember that the used footwear is destined for resale — if the sneakers have more holes than soles, they’re probably not going to help anyone out.
“We try very, very hard to help people understand that the shoes are designated for reuse — nothing wet or mildew-covered,” Pomerantz explained.
Shoebox Recycling will not accept heavy winter boots, ski boots, roller skates, roller blades, single shoes, or old junky sneakers filled with holes that smell worse than they look.
Shoebox Recycling works with micro entrepreneurs in places like Africa and South America to connect people with all sorts of footwear. From strappy sandals to construction boots and everywhere in between, shoes get a second life.
Donated shoes can be dropped off at the pet rescue at 11 Pioneer Avenue in Caribou.
Additional information can be obtained by calling Milton at 492-1722.