Imagine you are an at-risk person on the streets of Edmonton with ill-fitting, tattered shoes or no shoes at all. It is hard to imagine, especially with the seasons turning so quickly.

After one year of living in the tight-knit community of Alberta Avenue, Katherine Autio and Gregory Toogood noticed this was a common problem among the destitute people of the area.

While walking her dog in the neighbourhood, Autio met a deaf man on the street without any footwear. She insisted the man wait as she ran home to grab a pair of Toogood’s shoes he no longer needed.  

Toogood said, “I saw him the other day in front of the corner store with one shoe on. The other was in his hand as he showed his companions who were touching the shoe as he showed it.”

Autio decided to contact her friend who works at Boyle Street Community Services and similar agencies to find out where she could donate more footwear.  

Autio said, “What I discovered was that footwear was the most under-donated item and most of the agencies are not equipped to accept and store shoe donations.”

She then polled her friends on the Internet on how to solve this dilemma. Local businesses such as Norwood Dental Centre, The Carrot Coffeehouse, and NAIT’s math department offered to set up donation bins for her cause, and Community Soles was born.

They have a mission, too: “We want to collect 500 pairs of used shoes and boots to donate directly to agencies that work with persons at risk and in need of footwear.”

Toogood created a website and Facebook page to help spread the word and the logistics of how to reach people with their newly-developed charity. He said they’re still trying to navigate social media.

Why 500 pairs of shoes? Autio said, “At first, I wanted to do it for 30 days…but then I wanted a stretch-goal. It’s not that I will stop after [500 pairs], but I will have a sense of satisfaction.” Toogood added, “Having a measurable to stack yourself up against is a really good idea because it keeps you going, it keeps you focused, but [it] also validates if what you’re doing has an actual purpose…there is a real need for shoes and it is a perishable item, so the need is continuous…and it really is the most trifling thing to do to go through your shoes and donate the ones you don’t need anymore.”

Any clean, lightly-used footwear for all ages will be accepted for donation, but as winter quickly approaches, they’re hoping for warmer boots or at least closed-toed shoes.

Community Soles will pick up shoes for free at your house or workplace if you have 10 pairs or more to donate. Please contact them if you would like to help with their cause.


During regular business hours only:

Norwood Dental Centre (11660 95 St)

The Carrot Coffeehouse (9351 118 Ave)

NAIT math department (11762 106 St)

Contact Community Soles

[email protected]

Featured Image: Our feet are the foundation of our everyday lives. Donate your gently-used footwear to give someone at risk the start of a good foundation. | Amanda Nielsen