Local student starts organization to collect shoes for less fortunate

Local student starts organization to collect shoes for less fortunate
Curtis Leonard, Soles4Souls Ambassador
Curtis Leonard, Soles4Souls Ambassador

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - A Conway high school senior saw the need to make a difference in the world, so he started a local non-profit charity.

Curtis Leonard, 17, is a senior at Scholars Academy in Conway he said he researched the international organization, Soles4Souls, to find out how he could get involved.

"I just know there is so much that needs to be done in the world and a lot people think, 'you are just a kid, you can't, just wait until you are older. Get a college education,' But Leonard said.  "You really don't need a college education to make a difference in the world there's so much I can do while I'm young."

Leonard said the support from the community with the project has been overwhelming. "I have never really thought someone who works at Dunkin Donuts a teacher, an artist , all different eclectic people would  come together and do such  a great cause. Horry County and Myrtle Beach have been so willing to help," he said.

Since 2006, the anti-poverty organization has distributed more than 26 million shoes in over 100 countries. Leonard said, "I found out that it didn't take a lot to start a local chapter here in Myrtle Beach."

Leonard says the goal is to collect 2,000 pair of shoes from Horry County and surrounding areas.

He says he spent July and August planning and preparing for a September shoe drive.  "We're collecting new, used shoes, sandals, flats, heels, sneakers, flip flops, any condition, any size, any gender they are all going to people that need them," he said.

He has the help of 12 high school volunteers, " I am blown away at how much they have put into this project, many of them have to study, prepare for SAT and ACT exams, but they still manage to devote time to this project.

Leonard said he has already gained the support of 25 local businesses and schools. Carolina Forest Elementary, Dennis Devorick, decided his school would get involved in the project to teach the students an important lesson about community service.

"We're always looking for ways for kids to get involved often times it is the parents that are donating money, we wanted things that the kids can get involved in, they can go to their own closet get out a pair of shoes and be able to get involved," explained Devorick.

The students are getting involved so far, the school has already collected nearly 300 pairs of shoes. "They are making a difference by just cleaning out their closet," Leonard said with a smile.

The shoes collected in Myrtle Beach and Horry County will be delivered next month to Florida. Leonard says he will load up all the shoes collected and travel to Jacksonville to deliver the shoes to be distributed to those in need.

He added, "50% are going to be going to domestic areas in the United States, people that need them and the other 50 % is going all over the world, to areas struck by natural disasters, areas where the ground is so unsanitary parasites can enter through the feet."

"The simple truth is that almost anyone with a closet has shoes they don't wear, or an old pair that will just end up in a landfill," said Leonard.  "Give those to us, and know that you are taking a step to making the world a better place for all of us."

The passionate teen says he thinks it is sad that shoes are considered a luxury. " Shoes should be something people have for security, safety, protection and I think people just don't realize that, there is such a strong ethnocentrism that people think that there life is how it is everywhere in the world and that's not the case," explained Leonard.

For more information on the donation locations, click here.

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