Shoes for your Soul provides shoes for youth in the Philly and South Jersey to step out into the world with optimism
Dawn Lewis’ nonprofit that donates shoes to underprivileged kids in the region was born in memory of a friend.
When tragedy struck for Dawn Lewis, it was the beginning of something that would change the lives of thousands of underprivileged locals in Camden and the Philadelphia area.
“A friend of mine died in 2011, and a lot of people did not know that he would buy sneakers for kids in need,” Lewis said. “He would see that they were in need, ask them their shoe size, and buy them sneakers.”
In dedication to her gracious friend, Lewis started her nonprofit organization, Shoes for your Soul on Jan. 21, 2019, that year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service.
In October of 2019, she made her first high-profile shoe donation.
“One of my girlfriends saw that I started this organization and told me that a set of twins from a local school in Camden were being bullied because they didn’t have new shoes,” she said.
The Camden county native knows how it feels to be the youngest of a big family to wear hand-me-downs.
“I was the seventh of eight children, so I definitely know what it’s like,” she said
From then on, Shoes for your Soul has given out over 2,000 pairs of shoes. People can donate gently-used ones and socks for disadvantaged children.
Even though her organization is focused on providing for children, she has also given shoes to adults in need.
“We also shipped shoes to the Dominican Republic and Ghana, we want to help children all over the world,” said Lewis.
She receives help from her family and friends to help distribute shoes to children.
“I also use social media, like Facebook to see if anyone else wants to help or donate,” she said.
To further expand the effort in South Jersey, Lewis partners with schools around Camden County, N.J.
In its short time of existence, many organizations have also provided supplies to Lewis’ organization.
Bombas socks recently donated 1,000 socks to children.
On Jan. 23, Macy’s also provided a shopping spree for 80 children to pick out their own shoes in the nearby Cherry Hill Mall.
“They were so excited,” Lewis said. “They definitely enjoyed that day.”
Not only does Lewis provide shoes for children, but she also keeps in contact with the families she serves because kids tend to grow very fast.
“We want to track them because a lot of parents cannot financially keep up with them and provide them with more shoes,” she said.
Walmart, Pennco Technical School, and Wegmans have also made generous donations since 2019.
The outreach is important because Lewis does not get financial support from the government
“It’s all by word-of-mouth,” she said.
If locals want to donate gently-used shoes, Lewis travels to their home and picks up their donations.
As for now, Lewis rents a public storage unit to stock up on shoes and socks for young locals. For the time being, they rent a U-Haul truck for transport.
“It does get tiring, and right now we are looking to get a truck so it can be easier for us to pick up donations,” she said.
Camden, New Jersey once held the title of the murder capital of the U.S., but it’s tight-knit community has seen it through to better days. Shoes for your Soul is just one of the positives to spawn from perseverance.
Lewis is currently planning an event on March 6 that will provide sneakers to dozens of children.
It will be at the Molina Upper Elementary School in Camden N.J.
The event will also provide free snacks, coats, and medical supplies.
“We want to help as many children as we can. That is our ultimate goal,” Lewis said.
If you have any questions or want more information on Shoes for your Soul, contact the organization at 856-536-0997 or email them at [email protected]