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Westport Teen Seeks Used Shoes for Charity

WESTPORT, Conn. – Tyler Marks, a sophomore at Westport’s Staples High School, has at least 460 pairs of shoes packed in boxes inside his garage. No, the shoes aren’t his. He’s spearheading a shoe collection drive for Soles4Souls , a national nonprofit that provides new and used shoes to people in need, near and abroad.

This past fall, Tyler, 15, started the Soles4Souls Club at Staples . As far as he knows, it’s the first high school chapter of the Tennessee-based charity.

“I wanted to get involved with something where I’d be helping people, and I stumbled across the Soles4Souls website,” Tyler said. “I knew we had some shoes that were just sitting in our garage so I thought, ‘Why not? Let’s do this.’”

The club, which has about eight members, kicked off its first shoe drive this week. New or gently used shoes, of any kind and size, can be dropped in collection boxes at the Westport Weston Family Y, the Center for Senior Activities, Westport Music Center, Staples and Bedford Middle School through Friday.

Coleytown Elementary, Coleytown Middle, Greens Farms Elementary and Kings Highway Elementary schools are also encouraging students and parents to donate shoes, Tyler said.

As of Wednesday evening, Tyler’s mom Lisa said they counted 460 pairs of shoes collected so far from Staples, the Y, the senior center and Westport Music Center. The club has not yet collected donations from Bedford.

“The support from everyone involved has been really enjoyable,” said Tyler, who hopes to make the shoe drive an annual event. “I’ve learned that people are more generous than you might think.”

Scott Smith, communications director at the Family Y, said he, too, is overwhelmed by the response from the community. The Y, he said, is swamped with shoes, ranging from toddler shoes to five-fingered toe shoes, boots and everything in between.

“Hats — or shoes — off to Tyler and his schoolmates for organizing this,” Smith said. “Can you imagine if you didn’t have shoes, what a blessing these donated shoes would be?”

In addition to shoes, the Soles4Souls Club is collecting monetary donations. The club is seeking $1 per pair donated to help cover shipping expenses. People who would like to help but don’t have any shoes to donate, can also make a monetary donation to the club’s fundraising page .

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