A fundraiser grows through social media and kindness
● By Richard Gaw
Todd, Michelle, and Kaylea were lucky to find a rare spot in the room not covered with shoes
By Nancy Johnson
It all started when Michelle Jorgensen’s best friend, Vicky Carr, asked for her help.
Vicky’s sister had relayed a story about neighbors of hers who were trying to raise money to adopt a child from Eastern Europe. Vicky was immediately struck by their unusual fundraising method – collecting shoes. Ashton and Tony McBride had discovered an organization, Angel Bins, which helps charities and those with a specific fundraising need by donating to their cause in exchange for sizable donations of shoes or clothing. In the case of the McBrides, we are talking about 10,000 pairs of shoes!
“When Vicky called me, she said she knew I’d be good for at least a half a dozen pairs of flip-flops,” Michelle said with a chuckle, explaining that her collection of flip-flops has become a standing joke between the two of them. “Last year she told me I was a candidate for a flip-flop intervention.”
Michelle, willingly parted with “all but three pairs” of her beloved flip-flops, but she also went a step further. “I posted on the West Grove Message Board that I was collecting shoes for this cause. People just kept sharing it on Facebook and it went crazy!” the Landenberg resident explained as she gestures at two huge piles of shoes packaged in large trash bags.
“This room was supposed to be my ‘man cave’ – just look at it,” said Michelle’s husband Todd with a grin.
Michelle admits that at first, Todd thought her interest in the project was silly. But when he saw how many donations were coming in, he came around quickly and has been a huge help in picking up donations. Daughter Kaylea Dugger, 15, has also contributed a lot of time to sorting and packing shoes.
“We’ve gotten all kinds of shoes – kids’, men’s, women’s, some dance shoes, some dressy ones, and even some with tags still on them. I think people bought them just to donate,” Michelle said.
Several local groups have contributed large numbers of shoes. Willow Tree Hospice in Kennett Square, where Michelle is a certified nursing assistant, spread the word of Michelle’s endeavor to all its employees and readily agreed to give her a Friday and Monday off to make the journey to North Carolina on April 10. A Helping Hand, a cleaning service in Nottingham, enlisted the help of its customer base, KX Athletics in West Grove also collected a lot of shoes. Westtown Children’s Academy made a friendly competition out of it, with the three branches in West Chester, Kennett Square, and Chadds Ford trying to outdo each other in number of pairs donated.
Originally, Michelle planned to ship the shoes to the McBrides, but with her collection approaching 4,000 pairs, she is renting a truck, driving to Maryland to pick up Vicky, who has another 786 pairs to add to the collection, then the women will drive to North Carolina to meet the McBrides and deliver the shoes. “I know several people, including my dad, in the trucking business, and they could help us out, but Vicky and I really want to do this ourselves and meet Ashton and Tony.”
Michelle estimates that the cost for the two of them to travel, with all the shoes, to North Carolina and back will be several thousand dollars. Her friend, Karen Versuk recently set up a “Go Fund Me” account to help defray some of the out-of-pocket costs. Michelle was thrilled that in just four days, $400 had been pledged. “If we get more money than we need for the truck rental, fuel and hotel, we’ll just add it to our donation to the McBrides,” she explained. While the deadline to donate shoes has passed, you can still help the McBrides by going to www.gofundme.com/bringinghomeblake and make a donation.
Since getting involved in the shoe fundraising project just over a month ago, Michelle communicates regularly with Ashton. “One time she burst out crying in emotion on the phone saying, ‘I can’t believe this! These people don’t even know me and they’ve donated all those shoes!’ She is so thankful for everyone’s help.”
While the fundraising through Angel Bins will go a long way to help the McBrides adopt the adorable four-year-old special needs child whom they fell in love with, it won’t nearly cover the entire cost. The couple, along with their two young children, are raising additional money in any way they can—organizing a pancake breakfast and a spaghetti dinner, and selling handmade tie blankets and beautiful bracelets that are handmade in Haiti.
A unique concept, Angel Bins is a for-profit recycling company based in California that helps schools and other charitable organizations raise money through the recycling of everyday items.
Most items collected are packed and sent abroad to developing nations, including Chile, Peru, Congo, Malawi, Zambia, and the Philippines, among others. Quality clothing and shoes are in great demand as they are less expensive than buying new. Any items received that are stained, or damaged are recycled to make yarn, wiping rags, and insulation. Angel Bins fundraising not only benefits individual charities by giving them an avenue in which to raise needed funds, but the ripple expands, to provide a source of quality clothing and shoes for others, re-use and recycling to reduce waste, and creating multiple jobs in the US and abroad. See http://angelbins.com/ for more information.