People sought out the Nottbergs for help replacing running or walking shoes that didn’t fit properly or weren’t suited for a grueling workout. While the shoes might not be right for the Nottbergs’ customer, they were right for someone else – especially someone who couldn’t afford decent footwear.
Reuse – Repurpose – Recycle
In late 1998, Don & Leslie placed a large tub in the front of their store. They asked customers to donate a pair of old shoes after buying a new one. Some customers went home and came back with loafers, sandals, dress shoes, work boots and children’s sports shoes – snow boots, too – 600 pairs altogether. The Nottbergs delivered the shoes to a local organization that served people who were homeless or lived in poverty – just in time for the winter holidays.
For 14 years, word of mouth brought in more shoes – and more requests for shoes.
- In Years 2 & 3, Don & Leslie partnered with Soles4Souls, an international organization experienced in distributing shoes to survivors of natural disasters and victims of poverty.
- By Year 4, City Union Mission and the local division of The Salvation Army had caught wind of the collection and were asking to distribute shoes locally.
- Demand for gently used shoes – especially children’s shoes – grew, then skyrocketed with the onset of a recession in 2008.
- Financial crisis brought staggering job losses, stubborn unemployment, personal bankruptcy and homelessness to many in the Kansas City metro. By 2010, five different area charities were requesting ever-larger donations.
During the 20 years since that first tub appeared in the front of the store annual donations of used shoes have reached over35,000 pairs of shoes. SHOE KANSAS CITY has become so much more than a little holiday shoe drive.
A View to the Future
The local need for shoes continues to grow. It is never ending. SHOE KANSAS CITY now supports six different charitable organizations with the donation of the shoes collected at the Elite Feet store and shoe drives at schools, churches, synagogues, and community organizations. The two primary beneficiaries are The City Union Mission – Family Department and Catholic Charities of NE Kansas. These well established organizations have the experience resources, and networks to efficiently distribute the shoes to all those in need across the Kansas City metro region.
In 2012, Don & Leslie decided to incorporate Shoe Kansas City as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation. While the Nottbergs remain at the helm, Shoe Kansas City has gained the insight and support of a board of directors. Shoe Kansas City has been accepting monetary donations to create a fund to support the purchase of new shoes that are on close-out or discounted from the shoe companies. These shoes have then been provided to elementary school children and developmentally disabled adults unable to purchase new shoes for themselves. We are also providing shoes to runners on teams at middle and high schools in underserved and impoverished areas of greater Kansa City who cannot afford to purchase new running shoes for themselves.
Our hope and goal is to increase this fund by monetary donations to allow us to expand the reach and scope of providing new shoes to those in need at all educational levels.