Village resident Harvey Spettel was the person who handled the millionth shoe. He works at Futures, the work center for people who have incurred a traumatic brain injury. He came to work on Thursday, January 17th, as usual, not knowing the work he would be doing that day would be of historic significance. Spettel processed shoes alongside Mark Powell and Dewey Daggett, as he often does during his work day. As the morning progressed, Stacie Jorgensen, Director of Advancement at the Village, informed them that they had just made history at the Village by processing the 1 millionth pair of shoes on behalf of the Village and Soles4Souls. Their reactions were priceless. You can see them for yourself in the picture that accompanies this story. In fact, Mark Powell decided to start preparing for the 2 millionth pair by stating out loud, “a million and one”.
The Village’s partnership with Soles4Souls began in September 2009 and since that time, Village residents have been processing shoes donated to the Nashville-based non-profit. They have been distributed to 128 countries around the world.
Residents of the Village pair up and rubber band the shoes together. The shoes are then sorted by grading them into designated boxes based on their overall condition: New, High Grade Used and other. Shoes given an “other” designation are typically shoes like winter boots or lower grade shoes. When Harvey and his co-workers have filled a total of 56 Gaylord boxes, Soles4Souls will send a semi-trailer to have the shoes transported to its main distribution center. From there, the shoes are distributed to those in need, both within the United States and internationally. With the assistance of willing workers like Harvey, Soles4Souls has been able to distribute over 19 million pairs of shoes to those needing proper footwear. Stacie Jorgensen, Director of Advancement at Village Northwest Unlimited states, “The Soles4Souls Processing Center at the Village provides valuable work opportunities for the people we serve and gives them the dignity of having a job and the reward of earning a paycheck. It is also a great way for the people we serve to help other people in need throughout the world.”
Barry Whitsell, CEO of Village Northwest Unlimited commented, “this is a special relationship we have with Soles4Souls and we appreciate the confidence they have in people with disabilities to contribute to their ministry to those in need. Often times, people believe that individuals with disabilities are not able to contribute and this partnership allows people like Harvey to contribute to the well-being of another human being through the gift of having a pair of shoes. We take for granted having a pair of shoes, but there are over 300 million children throughout the world without shoes. Harvey, Mark & Dewey (and everyone else who helps with Soles4Souls) makes a difference in their lives!”
Because of the efficiency with which Harvey and his co-workers process the shoes received at Futures Unlimited, Village Northwest is the main processing facility for used shoes donated in the Northwest & Central regions of the United States. In an average week, Harvey and his colleagues will process over 5,800 pairs of shoes. The shoes that are donated come from all over. In addition to shoes donated from the United States, shoes are received from Canadian provinces and one pair even mailed from Korea. The Village has also partnered with area churches to form a “Shoe Ministry”. Partnering churches accept donated shoes by placing a collection box in their church and as the box is filled up, a designated person from the church brings the shoes collected to the Village. Currently there are 110 Shoe Ministry partners. Churches interested in being a part of this high impact ministry can contact Stacie Jorgensen at the Village at 712-324-5405.
People wishing to drop off shoes can do so daily at Futures Unlimited (105 N 18th Avenue) on the campus of Village Northwest. Shoes of any type and of any condition, and even single shoes, are accepted. Village Northwest Unlimited is nationally recognized as one of the premier providers of services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and traumatic brain injuries. Village Northwest builds successful lives for 180 individuals by providing opportunities and choices in residential, vocational and social programs while fulfilling its mission of providing Purpose, Privacy and Dignity for all people.