Young philanthropist collects shoes to earn money for foster kids’ gifts


aith Powell, 13, of Highland, is having her fourth annual shoe drive, trying to best last year’s effort of collecting 3,525 pairs of shoes. She has expanded to 20 drop boxes from Yucaipa to Upland, Tuesday, August 22, 2017. (Photo by John Valenzuela/The Sun/SCNG)

Faith Powell has a lot on her plate.

The compassionate 13-year-old philanthropist is organizing her fourth annual shoe drive to raise money for new toys that will be given to foster children this Christmas season.

Faith is acutely aware of the needs of foster children in the San Bernardino County foster care system.

She’s been there.

So, if you were to ask her why she raises money for gifts for these foster children at Christmas, she would tell you she’s been in their shoes.

And for Faith, “shoes” are where it begins.

For her, toys have special meaning.

She spent her first three years in foster care before she was adopted by Tracey and Scott Powell of Highland.

And yes. she remembers not having anything to play with.

At 3 years old, Faith was adopted by the Powells during the annual Adoption Celebration in November at the Ontario Convention Center.

In August, just before her 10th birthday, her mother asked her what she wanted for her special day.

The gift she wanted was to give to others.

She decided she would have a used shoe drive to help less fortunate people.

Her mother, Tracey Powell, found an organization that would pay money for the shoes — an international group called cash4shooz, which would pay by the pound for the shoes before cleaning and fixing them and sending them to people in developing nations.

A simple thing like used shoes has helped two groups of people in need.

Needless to say, Tracey is one proud mama.

Her daughter’s compassion is touching.

This isn’t just any shoe drive.

Faith’s starts Aug. 1 — right around her birthday — and continues through Aug. 31, collecting used (but still usable) shoes from the community, turning them in to the international charity, shooz4cash, by Sept. 16.

Faith receives a check for the shoes in October, and in November purchases the toys. By December, she has a truckload of toys to donate to disadvantaged kids.

Cool, huh?

Faith is happy to donate the toys to Children’s Fund, which provides assistance for the more than 6,000 San Bernardino County children in the foster care system. Last year she was able to meet four boys staying with a foster mother, and watch their expressions as they opened their gifts. “It was nice to see their reactions,” said Faith, who believes that if she can bring a smile to the faces of these kids in their situations, it is a special experience.

Each year, Faith’s shoe drive gets bigger — that’s a good thing.

But the piles of new and used shoes to be paired, banded, bagged and stored has grown exponentially.

“Sometimes it seems like it’s too much, but I still like being able to help,” Faith said.

Mother and daughter tackle the job with gusto.

Sorting takes place in the family’s garage, with both parents helping Faith with the mountains of footwear — from spiked sandals to tiny baby shoes.

Last year, there were two shoe drop-off locations. Now there are 20 locations from Yucaipa to Upland.

Shoes have been jumping in numbers as well

The first year, 2014, she gathered 132 pairs of shoes; in 2015, there were 2,825 pairs; and in 2016, 3,525 pairs, weighing in at 3,516 pounds, and netting her $2,109.60 for toys.

This year, of course, they are hoping to best last year’s effort.

An eighth-grader at Clement Middle School in Redlands, Faith likes science best.

These days she is also organizing a shoe drive at school, and says that teachers and fellow students are very supportive of her efforts.

“This year, the shoes will be turned into Cash4Shooz on Sept. 16 at 9 a.m.,” Tracey said. “That gives us a few weeks to get all of the shoes paired, banded, and bagged up after the shoe drive ends on Aug. 31. This year she has more local businesses helping her out by allowing drop boxes at their location — makes it easier for our community to drop off when there are locations close to them and not so far away.”

As the shoes are gathered, Faith and Tracey sort them into pairs, band them together and put them in bags.

If possible, the mother-daughter team is hoping that people can make it easier for them by banding their donated pairs of shoes together before dropping them off.

For more information about Faith’s used shoe drive,  you can email Tracey at [email protected] or  go to Faith’s Facebook page, shooz4gifts.