Local boy spurs shoe drive
When Chase Ponton, then 6, told his mom that he didn’t want presents for his birthday, she was proud.
“‘I don’t want presents. I want to collect shoes for those less fortunate,’” Tammy McCabe, Ponton’s mom, recalled him saying. “I was pretty proud of him when he said that.”
At both his 7th and 8th birthday parties, Ponton collected 40 pairs of shoes instead of receiving presents.
McCabe, the senior customer service associate at the Ocean View branch of Taylor Bank, took her son’s idea to the bank’s Human Resources department, to see if the branch could collect more shoes to be donated to those in need.
“Tammy and her son were the inspiration. He started it by collecting a bunch of shoes. Chase wanted to keep going, and so Tammy brought it up to our HR director,” said Branch Manager Lynne Nicodemous. “We just suggested that it could be a good initiative. Could we do it here at the branch? And the bank picked up on it and thought it was a great idea.”
In fact, Taylor Bank, which is based in Berlin, Md., thought it was such a great idea that they got in touch with the Maryland Bankers Association (MBA) and the Council of Professional Women in Banking & Finance, and launched a campaign consisting of 308 participating bank branches to collect shoes to help fight poverty.
“It’s just carrying through a young man’s dream of helping other people. It really took on a larger life,” said Nicodemous.
The 308 bank branches in the coalition are hoping to collect 25,000 pairs of new or used shoes by April 30, to be donated to Soles4Souls.
Soles4Souls is an international anti-poverty organization that monetizes used shoes and clothing to create sustainable jobs and fund direct relief efforts, including the distribution of new shoes and clothing.
Most of the reusable shoes collected are sent to micro-enterprise programs that create jobs in developing nations, such as Haiti. The resulting revenue from the 25,000 pairs of collected shoes will help fund 500 new pairs of Sketcher clog shoes, which will be given to MBA’s Council of Professional Women in Banking & Finance to donate to a Maryland-based nonprofit organization and distributed at a special event this summer.
According to the Soles4Souls’ website, less than 1 percent of the shoes donated are “extremely worn,” meaning they are unable to be salvaged. However, even those shoes are made useful. They’re sent to a recycling plant in Alabama, which turns the shoes into energy.
So far, the Ocean View branch of Taylor Bank, one of 10 Taylor Bank branches participating in the drive, has collected approximately 300 shoes, and they hope to collect more by April 30. They’ve collected new and used sandals, slippers, wellies and sneakers.
“Pretty much someone comes in once a day to donate shoes. We’ve had a lot of customers come out and want to participate in it,” said McCabe. “We have a lot of the men saying, ‘Yeah — I’ll just go through my wife’s closet and get you a bunch.’”
“We had one man whose sister owned a shoe store outside of Philadelphia that was going out of business,” added Nicodemous. “He got all these pairs for 50 cents and brought them here.”
Nicodemous said that the banks often participate in similar drives, such as Toys for Tots, and the Soles4Souls mission fits the banking association’s goal of supporting the community.
“It was just a great project to get involved with,” she said, adding that Taylor Bank would love for both non-customers and customers to stop by, donate a pair of shoes or two to support their collection efforts.
“I think it’s been a great hit so far,” said McCabe, adding that Ponton, a second-grader at Showell Elementary, is very excited about the success of his drive.
“He’s excited. When he comes in here, he’s excited to see all the shoes,” she said. “I think it’s a great thing — just helping other people, kids. That’s what Chase wanted to do.”
Taylor Bank is located at 50 Atlantic Avenue in Ocean View. For more information about Soles4Souls, visit www.giveshoes.org.