Shoe drive

Shoes collected through an Xcel Energy fundraising committee drive will be sent overseas, where entrepreneurs can sell shoes to raise funds for their families.

Looking for a way to raise funds for Feed My People Food Bank, Chris Ouellette turned to the Internet for ideas that didn’t require people to attend an event or spend money.

Online, Ouellette, a senior media relations representative with Xcel Energy, did some research and found Orlando, Fla.-based Funds2Orgs, which trades dollars for new or gently used shoes of all kinds.

Through Jan. 13, people hoping to help can drop off shoes of all types at either Xcel Energy, 1414 W. Hamilton Ave., or Feed My People, 2610 Alpine Drive, said Ouellette, who is chairwoman of a Feed My People fundraising committee at Xcel.

Ouellette is hoping to collect 100 bags containing 25 pairs of shoes. Funds2Orgs will pick up the bags, weigh them and then issue a check.

“If we hit our goal of 2,500 pairs of shoes, we will raise just over $2,000 for Feed My People,” said Ouellette, and no one will have to attend a fundraiser or write a check.

Feed My People Food Bank normally can stretch $1, so it can provide four meals, said Suzanne Becker, assistant director, so a donation of $2,000 could be stretched to provide 8,000 meals.

“That’s certainly impactful,” said Becker, who has donated shoes to the cause, as have other food bank staff and volunteers. “The shoes are adding up.”

For the past 30 years, Xcel Energy has held a variety of efforts, including craft sales and online auctions, to raise funds for Feed My People, Ouellette said. On an annual basis, an average of $15,000 to $20,000 is raised for the Eau Claire-based food bank, which distributed 7.6 million pounds of food to more than 70,000 people in 2017 and partnered with over 200 programs to reach families in 14 counties in west-central Wisconsin.

“This year, we tried to come up with something a bit different (to raise funds),” said Ouellette, who went through her own house and bagged up shoes to donate.

Afterward, “my husband opened up the closet and said, ‘I thought you said you were getting rid of shoes,’” she recalled, chuckling.

Once Funds2Orgs collects the shoes, they will be redistributed throughout the organization’s network of small business partners in developing countries, where economic opportunities and jobs are limited.

By helping those entrepreneurs set up shoe stores, where people in need can buy sneakers, sandals and boots, Funds2Orgs helps businessmen and women raise funds to feed, clothe and house their families.

“We are accepting any and all footwear — as long as it is new or gently used,” said Ouellette, who offered the following guide. “If you wouldn’t give (a pair) to a friend, don’t donate it.”

Of her goal of 100 bags of shoes, 11 have been filled so far, and Ouellette and Becker are hoping people raid their closets, along with their family members’ and friends’ closets, looking for more.

“This effort helps locally and overseas, so it’s a win-win,” Becker said. “It doesn’t get any better than that.”

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