When podiatrists at the Connecticut Foot Care Centers put out a call for shoes to help folks at Middletown's homeless shelter and substance abuse recovery haven two months ago, they hoped the patients would participate.
Never did they expect a veritable deluge of gently used shoes, sneakers, brand new socks and even purses donated by community members at each of their six locations in central Connecticut, says Jenn Bartlett, social media and marketing manager at Connecticut Foot Care.
Podiatrists Dr. Jeffrey S. Kahn, Richard E. Ehle, Craig M. Kaufman and Ayman M. Latif thought the shoe drive would be a perfect fit.
Inspired by Soles 4 Souls, a charity that distributes shoes to the needy in 129 countries, Bartlett thought the perfect recipient of a local drive would be Middletown-based The Connection and contacted Program Manager Mackenzie Tyson.
Tyson said residents of The Connection's Eddy Shelter for homeless men and women and Hallie House, which helps recovering drug abusers and their children would benefit most. Both are located on the Connecticut Valley Hospital campus.
In all, 190 pairs of men's, women's and children's shoes, 29 pairs of socks and nine purses were collected.
"This is perfect timing. It means a tremendous amount to the residents and also for those who aren't staying at the shelter and are visited by our outreach team," Tyson said.
She was surprised to see an entire room at Connecticut Foot Center's Saybrook Road in Middletown office filled with bags of footwear. "My brain didn't know what 200 pairs of shoes looked like."
The idea took off with patients of CT Foot Care Centers in Rocky Hill, Bristol, Newington, Glastonbury, Middletown and Kensington as well as members of the community.
"It's a way to give back to the community," Kahn said, "and also a way to help patients and other people learn there's a way to help others they may not normally know about and that causes a ripple effect."
As word spread of the drive, employees of Zygo Corporation in Middlefield brought by men's steel-toed work boots, something Tyson was thrilled to learn about.
"For clients looking for work, we have a couple of day labor options and people have to have steel-toed boots before you can even be tested for a job interview," she said.
Tyson called the podiatrists and their staff "advocates for change," adding, "some people don't know what to give or where to go."
The Connection accepts new and gently used items, including toiletries, nonperishable foods, furniture and electronics for the 6,000 children and adults it serves monthly in Connecticut.
Now that the weather had turned colder, Tyson said, the most urgently needed items are blankets, sheets and towels. "For people who move out into apartments for the first time," Tyson said, "they need housewares and other furnishings."