11/21/19 8:50 a.m. Update: This article has been updated to reflect a correction to Whitney Fishman Zember’s title.
While it’s not unheard of for teenage boys to have impressive sneaker collections, it’s not as common for them to give some of their favorites away. Yet some Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School (BT) students have been doing just that as part of a partnership with international nonprofit It’s From the Sole.
The two organizations set a goal to give away 500 pairs of new or gently used sneakers. Seventy will go to Israel, while the rest will go to two Baltimore organizations: Helping up Mission, and Paul’s Place. Collection boxes are located in the high school lobby, lower school lobby, and administrative entrance.
The collection will conclude at the Weiner Basketball Tournament in December. Then, donations will be distributed in spring when BT seniors travel to Israel.
“It’s important to give something you’d wear,” said Andre McDonnell, founder of It’s From the Sole. McDonnell started It’s From the Sole after he was moved by a limping, barefoot man he encountered and gave him his own shoes.
The charity focuses on sneakers, because they are the most comfortable shoes, said McDonnell.
BT Cares is a community outreach program at Beth Tfiloh Congregation. Committee member Ina Krief was on a trip to New York when she met McDonnell. They discussed the nonprofit, and Krief asked if he would be interested in a partnership with BT Cares. A year later his board member Whitney Fishman Zember helped organize the collection. Zember, a 2002 BT alum, was a classmate of BT Cares Director Lindsay Gaister.
“Beth Tfiloh is participating,” said Gaister, “because it fits in perfectly with our mission to provide hands-on opportunities to make a difference in the communities around us and communities farther away.”
Krief’s son, Tamir, chairs the event for the high school. “I never realized the amount of people that still walk around today without a decent pair of shoes,” said Tamir. “It broke my heart to see that. Getting in connection with Andre opened my eyes to this world and let me lend help to those people in need.”
“Many of us have several pairs of tennis shoes, some we have never even worn, and this is our chance to bring comfort, warmth, and a sense of pride to people who may otherwise be walking around with holes in their shoes or even barefoot,” said Gaister.
Tamir rarely throws away his own shoes, but for this drive he will surrender multiple pairs from indoor soccer, and “a nice pair of regular sneakers.”
“We’re bringing life back to the sneakers, not giving them away,” said McDonnell. He suggests people buy shoes on sale to donate if they don’t have clean ones to donate.
It’s From the Sole has collected 3,000 shoes so far this year. As of Nov. 18, more than 150 have been collected at Beth Tfiloh, according to Gaister.
— Carolyn Conte