Charity Donates Thousands of Shoes during Barefoot Week

Soles4Souls announced this week that it handed out 130,000 shoes to residents and disaster victims in Atlanta and New Orleans.

Wayne Elsey, founder and CEO of Soles4Souls, said he hoped the large shoe give-away would encourage other charitable organizations to recognize the importance of providing for the thousands of people throughout the world who lack adequate footwear.

"It's not about the numbers of shoes we are giving away, it's about issuing a call to action to people that can make a difference right here, right now, in our own country," Elsey said in a statement.

"[I hope] to catch the attention of shoe retailers, footwear brands, churches and individuals and inspire them to join our simple yet important cause," he added.

The give-away was part of this year's Barefoot Week, which was held June 1-7 to raise awareness about the millions of children who have never owned a pair of shoes and to offer opportunities for the public to participate in Soles4Souls mission – "changing the world one pair at a time." The international charity announced it would donate more than 325,000 pairs of new sandals to needy people in five cities, including Miami, Detroit, and Taylor, Ariz.

Celebrities including Scarlett Johansson and Lauren Conrad lent their names to help raise publicity about the weeklong event.

Corinne Knight, associate director of Communications for the Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans, said she was proud to testify about the great help and impact that the ministry had done in giving thousands of children – still suffering from the effects of Hurricane Katrina – badly needed pairs of shoes.

"The faces of the little kids were absolutely lit up with happiness ... something that you and I may take for granted was the most exciting thing to them," she said. "We are thrilled that they aren't forgetting the continued struggle of New Orleans residents."

Elsey, however, emphasized that much work still remained in fulfilling his goal of equipping needy children everywhere with footwear – particularly in the still recovering areas of New Orleans.

"We have donated more than one million pairs of shoes to residents in and around New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina," he said. "But the city remains in great need of renewed assistance from all types of charities. We want to remind Americans that the work is not done, the mission is not accomplished. We invite them to invest in charities that work in New Orleans to help finish the job we all committed to immediately after the hurricane."

Since the charity's inception nearly four years ago following the Asian tsunami crisis, the group has given away over 3 million shoes.