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Ramona Purdy

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Backdrop: Tamara Backdrops

“Giving is about kindness.”
–Ramona Purdy
A Shoo-in
Ramona Purdy
Share Your Soles

Take a peek inside the shoe closet of Ramona “Mona” Purdy and you will find that it contains multitudes. But don’t let her vast assortment of pumps and sandals mislead you into thinking she is suffering from an Imelda Marcos complex.

For six years, Purdy, a 40-something single mother of three, has collected, cleaned, warehoused, and given away mostly used shoes—tens of thousands of them. They have gone to needy people all over the world, including places so poor that children have had to paint tar on their soles so they could run in a festival race.

It was in just such a place, in fact, in Central America, that Purdy first saw the need for this simple, basic necessity. More important, Purdy believed she could do something to remedy the situation. Her plan was as modest as a pair of worn Hush Puppies: return to her suburban Chicago home in Palos Park and ask people in the neighborhood if they would donate shoes she could take back to Guatemala. Working out of her garage, she launched Share Your Soles. Soon, used shoes were pouring in from local schools, churches, and community groups, only to be sent traveling to the farthest reaches of the globe, from Kenya to Sri Lanka, Argentina to Iraq.

Today, the organization operates out of a 50,000-square-foot processing center filled with fuzzy slippers, fancy pumps, sneakers, and sandals. Major corporate sponsors, such as American Airlines and FedEx Global Worldwide, have kicked in to help transport the shoes. And volunteers by the hundreds, many of them children, make sure the supply of footwear doesn’t ebb. (Learn how to make your own contribution at www.shareyoursoles.org.)

In 2005, Purdy needed all the help she could get. After assisting thousands of victims in the South Pacific who had been devastated by the deadly tsunami, Share Your Soles was among the first volunteer organizations to reach victims of Hurricane Katrina. Within a day of the levees’ breaking in New Orleans, Purdy and her volunteers had already delivered some 14,000 pairs of shoes to the ravaged region. “It’s the most amazing thing,” she says. “Giving is about kindness. It’s such a simple thing—and you get so much back.”

It’s that spirit—and the sheer force of Purdy’s indomitable personality—that persuaded businesses like Centerpoint Properties to contribute to Share Your Soles. “Mona is a force,” says Centerpoint vice president Michael Bonet. “She is dynamic, and quite persuasive. For her, it’s a labor of love. She’s one of those people you want to help.”
–Bryan Smith





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