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Two by two

Julie Saetre | Aug 04, 2017
The Michigan District collects shoes to raise money for The Eliminate Project.

Among Michigan District Kiwanis clubs, Linda-Ann Heldt is known as the Shoe Lady. That’s because, since January 2016, she’s been leading the district’s efforts in collecting shoes—more than 38,000 pairs so far—to be recycled. The resulting funds go to The Eliminate Project.

“I’ve got 2,000 pairs in my garage right now, waiting for the truck,” Heldt says, laughing. Heldt, who is a member of the Kiwanis Club of Utica-Shelby Township, got the idea after hearing about a similar project while attending an Ohio District convention. She mentioned it to Greg Smith, executive director for Kiwanis’ Michigan District, and soon after, Shoes Across Michigan debuted.

Clubs have gotten creative at encouraging donations. The Collecting Shoes for Charity website contains information on drop-off opportunities. Heldt has set up drives at a wide range of events, including a 5K race, a pancake brunch, Kids Day at the Farm—even a Tummy to Toddler Expo.

The Eisenhower High School Key Club in Shelby, Michigan, and the Oakland University CKI Club (photo above) have pitched in. And then there are the mud runs—foot races where participants slog through muddy fields and other obstacles on the way to the finish line.

“At the end, a lot of people don’t want to take their muddy shoes home with them,” Heldt notes, “so they drop them off at a booth, and we stand there and collect shoes. It’s a great way to put Kiwanis’ branding out there in the community. We get paid 50 cents for every pair of shoes, so it’s a great fundraiser.”

And if the shoes don’t come to Heldt, she goes to the shoes. At a recent vendor show, a woman from a town 45 minutes away offered to collect in her county. “I said, ‘Well, you collect, I’ll pick up,’” Heldt says. “An hour’s (drive) is no big deal to me. That was a win, just getting a contact.”

Her shoe team also created a simple message to generate more donations: “Five pairs of shoes save one baby’s life.” “We started out with a big, long PR piece. Not a lot of people would read all of that,” Heldt says. “Everybody’s getting this.”

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