SKOWHEGAN — The Somerset Humane Society has put its heart and sole into a campaign for jobs for needy people in other countries, while getting a little something back in return.

That’s sole — as in collecting 2,800 pairs of new, worn and used shoes to be bagged up and sent to countries where people make a business of repairing and selling them in their own communities.

The shelter is participating in the program offered by a group called Funds2Orgs.com based in Orlando, Florida, a for-profit social enterprise company that buys donated bags of shoes and sends them off to about 25 countries around the world, from Ukraine to Ghana and Haiti. The first bags of shoes are donated to a participating business or social group overseas, like seed money, to repair and sell the shoes, according to Funds2Orgs project manager Donna Paulus.

“We help people set up micro enterprises, which is a business for them,” Paulus said by phone. “We give them a hand up. We provide them with three or four bags to get started. They go out and sell them in their community and come back and purchase more shoes from us.

“It gives them a sustainability — a way of life”

The Somerset shelter on Middle Road in Skowhegan is paid 40 cents per pound for the shoes it collects, which helps the shelter’s fundraising needs, said shelter manager Amie Cunningham.

“There’re 114 clear bags with 25 pairs per bag,” Cunningham said, pointing to a mound of bags packed with running shoes, dress shoes, flip-flops, sneakers and children’s mud boots stacked to the ceiling in the shelter’s garage. “They’re going to be sent to impoverished countries, where they’re going to be able to wear them and also going to be able to use them to start businesses by selling them.”

Cunningham said the Jobs For Maine Graduates class at Skowhegan Area High School has been collecting shoes. Other drop-off points for shoes are Aubuchon Hardware in downtown Skowhegan, Madlyn’s New and Used Clothing on Waterville Road in Skowhegan, Treasurers in Madison and a Madison Boy Scout troop.

“Tons of people have collected,” she said. “We’ve been collecting for a little over a month. We’ve had different clubs, different schools all collecting. Some of them have come in one pair at a time, some of them have come in a truck load at a time.”

Cunningham said the animal shelter received an email in March from Funds2Orgs saying that a lot of animal shelters across the country have been participating in the shoes project and asked the Skowhegan shelter if they wanted to participate. They did.

“One of the reasons we wanted to do the shoe drive is that, as a nonprofit, we don’t get many chances to give back, so this is our chance to give back a little, instead of asking for donations all the time,” Cunningham said. “That was why we decided to do it — helping people in foreign countries.”

According to the Central Florida Better Business Bureau, Funds2Orgs is a limited liability company, which has 60 positive reviews from the public and no neutral or negative reviews.

“The shoes collected by your fund raiser will help to create sustainable economic impact in countries that need it the most,” according to the Funds2Orgs website, which sponsors the collections nationwide.

“Shoes from your shoe fundraiser are consolidated and shipped to on-the-ground business operators where they clean or make minor repairs,” according to the website. “The shoes you collect will empower individuals to provide basic necessities for families, while helping your organization meet its financial goals.”

Cunningham said 2,800 pairs of shoes will generate about $1,000 for the shelter from the company. So far they have 2,850 bagged.

Paulus in Florida said the company is not affiliated with any church or national organization. She compared the shoes-to-jobs process to the old saying that if you give a man a fish, he can eat for a day; but if you teach a man to fish — or repair shoes — he can eat for a lifetime.

“We like the idea of giving them a hand up,” she said.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow


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