Harford Lower Extremity Specialists (HLES) has been in the business of providing quality podiatric care to the residents of Harford and Cecil Counties since 1991. Harford Lower Extremity Specialists is a small group podiatry practice located in downtown Bel Air, in Harford County. The practice’s mission statement stresses quality care, integrity in business practices, and giving back to the community.
To that end, the leaders of HLES decided to organize and execute a holiday shoe drive, with the collected shoes being donated to a local charity for distribution.
So, in 2017, we contacted the Paris Foundation in Elkton, Maryland and they agreed to accept the shoes we collected. In exchange for each pair of new or gently used shoes donated during the last two months of 2017, a raffle ticket was received for a chance to win a Yeti cooler stuffed with items from additional sponsors: the motorcycle club, Steel Horse Guardians, and the radio station WXCY. Everything went smoothly, and the raffle winner was very excited to have won the prize.
During this drive, we were able to collect just over 350 pairs of shoes! The Steel Horse Guardians brought a big van to transport the shoes from Bel Air to Elkton. All of the employees at HLES felt the reward of being a part of this drive and giving back to the community, particularly by helping those in need during the holiday season.
We considered the first drive a huge success, but we also identified a few ways we could improve the drive in the future. The Paris Foundation informed us that there was a need for socks as well as shoes, which we had not previously considered. Additionally, the number of shoes we collected was a bit overwhelming for the Paris Foundation. No one, ourselves included, thought we would collect that many shoes!
So, as the 2018 holiday season approached, we began to plan for the drive and implement some new ideas to hopefully make the drive even more successful. We decided to stick with the same prize, a Yeti cooler, and again teamed up with Mike Farmer, the president of The Steel Horse Guardians, and Joanne Callanta, from the marketing department of WXCY. Donated items included tumblers, shirts, and merchandise bags. We were also able to get two motorcycle Bibles from the Christian Motorcycle Association. Using the information we received the prior year, we decided to collect socks as well as shoes, with three pairs of donated socks earning a raffle ticket.
We were also blessed by meeting Carolyn Jenkins of The Jenkins Donelson Foundation. Carolyn is an energetic woman with a passion for improving foot health through education, advocacy, and community services. Through her organization, she coordinates foot screenings and shoe distribution for the homeless, as well as for individuals and families living in shelters in northern Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland, and she was delighted to accept donations to help people in need in our area.
We started the drive on November 1, as we decorated for Thanksgiving, with the hope that we could achieve a goal of collecting over 400 pairs of shoes. We had a radio spot, and started a Facebook campaign, and patients who were eager to help their community. The drive was slow to kick off, and we began to wonder if we would be able to achieve the success of the prior year. But then, all of a sudden, it took off! We were getting phone calls, Facebook inquires, and tons of foot traffic to the office. People cleared out their closets and brought boxes and bags of new and slightly used shoes. Some people even brought shoes and did not want a ticket- they just wanted to donate to a worthy cause. The Steel Horse Guardians did their own collection and were able to donate over 100 pairs of shoes. The donation box in our waiting room was overflowing, no matter how often we emptied it. And we were all delighted and surprised to find that at the end of the campaign, on December 21st, we had accumulated over 1,000 pairs of shoes and 100 pairs of socks!
As of the writing of this article, almost all of the shoes have been distributed by The Jenkins Donelson Foundation, providing a happier holiday season for all those in need. The Jenkins Donelson Foundation also plans to return after February to take the remainder of the shoes to give out to other shelters. The team building that resulted from this endeavor cannot be calculated in dollars and cents, and the humility of giving back to our community was a needed reset button to temper our attitudes as we began the new year. We are already looking forward to another successful drive next year.
By: Dr. Howard L. Schultheiss, Jr, DPM, CEO
Edited: Dr. Alison C. D’Andelet, DPM
Harford Lower Extremity Specialists