Bags of gently worn and new shoes sit in the parking lot of Shir Tikvah during the congregation’s April 25 shoe drive. The congregation has two more shoe drives, noon-1 p.m. May 16 and 23.

Bags of gently worn and new shoes sit in the parking lot of Shir Tikvah during the congregation’s April 25 shoe drive. The congregation has two more shoe drives, noon-1 p.m. May 16 and 23.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Shoe drive raises funds for community action, supports entrepreneurs abroad

By: Jonathan Shead | Troy Times | Published May 1, 2021

 Sterling Heights resident Zoey Fink, 12, helps Shir Tikvah Executive Director Lorelei Berg unload shoes from a car during the congregation’s April 25 shoe drive.

Sterling Heights resident Zoey Fink, 12, helps Shir Tikvah Executive Director Lorelei Berg unload shoes from a car during the congregation’s April 25 shoe drive.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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TROY — A local Jewish congregation is in need of your gently worn and new shoes.

Shir Tikvah, a reform-renewal synagogue located at 3900 Northfield Parkway, is hosting a shoe drive in conjunction with Funds2Orgs, the nation’s largest shoe drive fundraising company, to raise funds to support the congregation’s social action initiatives, arts and cultural education, community outreach, membership support, and facility updates.

The shoe drive, led by Shir Tikvah Executive Director Lorelei Berg, is being held noon-1 p.m. May 16 and 23 in the congregation’s parking lot. The congregation held two other shoe drives on April 18 and 25.

“Our congregation has a real focus and commitment to social action work. We often like to say we pray with our feet, and in this particular case, it’s literally praying with your feet, since it’s a shoe drive. It’s kind of funny in that regard,” Berg laughed, but the shoes donated through the drive don’t only help Shir Tikvah raise funds through Funds2Orgs.

As a partnering organization, Funds2Orgs trades donated shoes for fundraised money, based on the number of shoes donated. Those shoes are then shipped to over 4,000 local entrepreneurs in developing countries across the globe, who rely on refurbishing and reselling the shoes to make an income.

“Not only does it give us the opportunity to raise some funds for our community, to be able to do that good work, but also to make a bigger and deeper impact in the world,” Berg said.

Funds2Orgs Vice President of Marketing Kristy Fontelera said that roughly 70% of the global population relies on used goods from countries like the U.S.

“That number was huge to me. I had no idea that 5 billion people actually rely on goods from first-world countries like ours. I thought that was really insane,” she said. Shoe drives like these also help keep shoes out of landfills, Fontelera added.

“It can take 30 to 100 years for a shoe to decompose in a landfill, which is one of the other benefits from our shoe drive fundraiser. It keeps shoes out of landfills, because 300 million pounds end up in U.S. landfills almost every year.”

Berg lauded the positive environmental consequences that come from the drive as well. “There’s several different layers for us here that just really inspired us,” she said.

The shoe drive will be accepting gently worn and new shoes. The shoes must not have holes or wear on the soles. Shoes donated must be hard sole shoes — most slippers won’t work unless they have a hard sole, Berg said. The goal is to fill 100 bags of shoes, about 2,500 shoes, which would raise $1,000 for the congregation.

The congregation had 20 bags, or 500 pairs of shoes, donated after the April 25 drive, which is about 20% of the donations needed to fulfill their goal, but Berg hopes to knock the socks off the congregation’s 100-bag goal.

“Every pair we collect is not only a pair that we save from a landfill, but it’s a pair that can help people who need them,” she said. “In terms of funds we’re collecting on this, I don’t know necessarily what portion will be going to those individual projects, but the funds are going toward our congregation that then in turn will support these various projects, as well as just the congregation operationally, because if we’re not here, we can’t do this work in the community.”

As people begin to catch the spring cleaning bug, Berg suggests looking through old pairs of shoes and asking whether you’ll actually wear them again. “I can say as a mom of four, it’s really motivated me to go through my stuff and think about it in another way,” she said.

Spring cleaners aren’t the only ones who can benefit from the shoe drive, however. For those who used to regularly volunteer but haven’t been able to lately, Fontelera said the shoe drive is an accessible, convenient way to get back to giving back.

“Not everyone, especially with COVID, has been able to go to events or to donate regularly to their charities, so there’s a huge impact at nonprofits — especially on the local level, who don’t have national ties,” she said. “When you’re doing a fundraiser where you don’t have to write a check, it’s very easy for you to participate and show support just by donating your shoes.”

After all the shoes have been collected and donated, Berg just hopes she can send a little extra light into her community and others across the globe.

“If we’re supporting an organization that helps to lift people up in the world, that lift pays it forward, and they in turn want to do the same for others in their own community. It’s kind of like being the light you want to see in the world, and we have the ability to impact change,” Berg said. “Even though I’ll never likely meet the people our shoes help, it’s putting that energy out there and that light will continue to shine on.”

For more information, visit shirtikvah.org.

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