Soles4Souls on the Move

The annual Cross Country charity event marches on, despite the challenges of a difficult year.

Sofia Brickner, Staff Writer

Simple acts of kindness, including donations of unwanted or gently used clothing items, can make a world of difference to those in need. Shoes are a basic necessity, yet they are still sorely lacking among many people world-wide. But the North Allegheny Cross Country shoe drive, in collaboration with the nonprofit Soles4Souls, is aiming to make a difference. 

Cross country runners Andrew Kollitz and Abby Pingpank have been working hard since June to promote the drive and help the cause.

“I was driven by the prospect of helping others less fortunate than myself. Additionally, runners go through lots of shoes, so a shoe drive is a great way to recycle these old shoes,” Kollitz said.

Pingpank added, “Since I was a freshman, I have always been excited to help with this project. My family has also donated to Soles4Souls shoe drives through our church, so I am very familiar with the organization. When I was given the opportunity to have the drive passed down to me, I knew there was no way I wouldn’t take it.”

When I was given the opportunity to have the drive passed down to me, I knew there was no way I wouldn’t take it.”

— Abby Pingpank, Soles4Souls Co-Leader

Pingpank is eager to share her enthusiasm for the cause with all who are interested.

“Soles4Souls is a non profit organization that collects new, used, or unwanted shoes to give to people who are in need,” she said. “They allow people to host their own drives, and that is what Drew and I are doing. They also have drop-off locations, so if someone wanted to drop shoes off there, they could.”  

Both Pingpank and Kollitz have been impressed by the energetic effort their team members have devoted to the shoe drive.

“They go above and beyond to help us reach our goal,” Kollitz said. “I know of people that have reached out to their whole neighborhoods and churches. At this point, it is not just NAXC helping us, it’s the North Allegheny community.”

The pandemic has presented unavoidable challenges, but the two organizers are pleased with the drive’s progress so far.

“In the past, places like churches and small businesses have really helped our drive,” Pingpank said. “We reached out to a church, and because of everything that is going on, they are not comfortable holding on to other people’s property. That hurt us a little bit, but other than that I believe we are doing well.”

Pingpank continued, “Our original goal was to get close to or even beat the record that previous leaders had set. It was set by the Class of 2019’s Luke Turkovich and Kelsey Hudson, and they had 4,153 pairs of shoes. We set our goal at 4,000 pairs. Last I checked, we were sitting at the 2,400 pair mark. Honestly though, with whatever happens, I will be proud of however many pairs of shoes we collect, especially with what is going on with COVID-19.”

For NAXC Head Coach John Neff, it has been gratifying to see the shoe drive grow over the years.

“Many years ago, Leah Mensch got it started, and every year it’s been passed down to a different kid,” Neff said. “I don’t actually know how Leah got the idea for it, but it has been an awesome idea, and it’s something that has lasted and serves as a testament to how nice of a thing it is for the team.”

Neff added, “I knew right from the beginning that it would be a winner, but no one could have predicted how many shoes they would have collected over the years and how much people would embrace it every year. I am really pumped that it has not died out and it has been as successful as it has.”

Neff elaborated on how the senior runners choose the shoe drive leaders.

“Every year, the seniors who had it the year prior look for somebody who has responsibility, reputation with the team, and characteristics they think are going to let the person be successful,” he said. “The last thing the seniors want is for it to fail because they picked the wrong people.” 

Even if you have no shoes to donate, everyone is encouraged to reach out to family, friends, and neighbors, spreading awareness of the drive.”

— Drew Kollitz, Soles4Souls Co-Leader

Kollitz and Pingpank have proven to be just what the 2020 Soles4Souls shoe drive needed.

“Even if you have no shoes to donate, everyone is encouraged to reach out to family, friends, and neighbors, spreading awareness of the drive. Every shoe counts.” Kollitz said.

Pingpank added, “The best thing people can do if they cannot donate is simply spread the word. I have had so many people tell me that they would have donated in the years past, but they did not know about the drive. The more people that know about it, then the more will try to help us.”

Abby and Andrew can be contacted at the email addresses below.  Donating to the cause is as easy as bringing old shoes to school and arranging to drop them off with one of the two leaders.

Abby: [email protected].

Drew: [email protected], [email protected]