Redeeming Soles is committed to providing proper footwear to organizations serving the homeless and underprivileged throughout the Puget Sound area. Redeeming Soles distributes footwear on a monthly basis to these local organizations while also adding more organizations as the need arises.
Growing an organization that acts as a model for those in other areas of the United States also wanting to provide both footwear and foot care to the needy.
Redeeming Soles was founded by Scott Sowle in 2010. For more than 13 years, Scott was homeless on the streets of Houston, Dallas, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City and Seattle. While in Salt Lake City, he needed a pair of work boots for a job, but after more than a month of visiting various charitable organization, he came away empty handed. Scott was discussing his need for boots with a caseworker from the largest homeless service provider. With tears in her eyes, the staff member told him that while the organization regularly received clothing, food and blankets they seldom got proper footwear. This stayed with him.
In 2009, Scott came to Seattle. He entered the city’s Union Gospel Mission’s (UGM) yearlong New Creations program. During his stay at UGM, he saw firsthand how their shoe shelves remained empty. One November day, a homeless man came into the mission with a pair of socks stuffed with cardboard looking for some shoes. The only footwear UGM had to give the man was a pair of flip flops, hardly suitable shoes for a chilly, rainy day in late fall.
During the 2010 holiday season, Scott decided to take action. He hitched a trailer to his bike and stood in front of the Columbia Tower handing out flyers asking for shoe donations. At first, a snowstorm during the Thanksgiving weekend thwarted his efforts and he came away empty handed. Undaunted, he came back to the Columbia Tower and soon the shoes began to pile up. (He even received more than 250 pairs on one day!) He continued the shoe drive throughout the holiday season and collected 1,800 pairs in total and his efforts gained recognition from the Seattle Times.
In February of 2011, a group of people inspired by Scott’s mission began to meet and formed Redeeming Soles, which soon became a State of Washington non-profit organization. A board of directors was elected and Redeeming Soles became a 501c3 non-profit organization shortly thereafter.
Redeeming Soles collects new and used footwear via shoe drives (such as its annual Shoe Harvest) and local drop off locations. All the footwear is stored at Redeeming Soles’ 1,800 square-foot distribution center where it is sorted by gender, cleaned and boxed for pickup by local organizations. Redeeming Soles has a donation booth at many of the Seattle area’s running events throughout the year, including the Rock n Roll Marathon and the Jingle Bell Run.