So We Run; Small Ideas Making a big Impact
At Faith & Fortune one of the continual underlying themes in what we do is an attempt to connect the dots between our day-to-day lives and the needs of those around us. How can we make small decisions that can impact others in untold ways. As members of a large western community it’s often easy to feel as though our efforts can go unnoticed and without effect. I’m just one person, and there is so much need. What difference can I make?
So We Run, as told on their website “is a public charity operating under the IRS section 501(c)(3). SWR exists to support individuals, churches, schools, non-government organizations and any other entities both locally and abroad by providing them with new or lightly worn shoes in an attempt to encourage action, inspire hope, promote change and impart dignity.” Sounds pretty professional, right? It is. You know what else it is? It’s an idea that started with 2 people who live normal working lives who knew they could do something special with their extra time. It’s not a conglomerate of people with multi-million dollar underwriting and it’s not always sexy. In fact, it’s often a lot of work.
We wanted to know a little bit more about So We Run and where the idea started, so we sat down with co-founders Keith Krass and Ryan Smith.
Tell us about how So We Run got Started?
The vision for So We Run (SWR) began in 2006 when I was a student at Gordon College in Wenham, MA. I played basketball at Gordon and at the beginning of each year we got a new pair of shoes. I have been playing basketball my entire life and every year I purchased a new pair of shoes. For some reason it hit me when I was in college that I have a closet full of shoes that I will probably never wear again but these shoes are certainly in decent enough condition for someone to use.
I google searched something like “donate used shoes” and the organization Soles4Souls came up. I read about them and liked their mission so I began collecting shoes on Gordon’s campus for that organization.
In 2008 I traveled to Argentina with the Gordon men’s basketball team. While there I met a woman whose parents ran a soccer school in southeast Asia. Sadly, many of the boys that attended this school were unable to participate in the end of the season tournament, as the first rule of competition was that all players must have footwear of some kind. Many of the boys did not pass this requirement.
I realized that even though Soles4Souls was reaching tons and tons of people, there were still groups, like these boys at the soccer school, that would never receive shoes from them.
I figured, I might as well help them.
That is a great question. We realize the limitations of giving only shoes. In fact, we have been working on several different ideas to incorporate athletics and education into our organization. But on a fundamental level, there is a big need for quality footwear across the globe. Two years ago SWR was in Guatemala working on a building project with the organization Little Lambs International. We worked with several Guatemalans in laying a foundation for a building that will become an orphanage. Many of these workers were performing heavy construction in sandals. What made this so poignant to me was as we traveled around we couldn’t help but notice the hundreds and hundreds of individuals that had been reduced to begging because they had lost limbs. One small accident and probably the only trade these workers have would be taken from them. Also the amount of infections and disease that can very easily be limited just by individuals, kids especially, having their feet covered. We know shoes wont fix everything, but we think it can help.
You both have full-time day jobs; what are the challenges of running a charity on your off-hours?
As our organization continues to grow, it is requiring more and more of our time. To be candid, this has been very difficult for us at times. My hope and prayer is that eventually we will have the financial backing to hire part-time staff but right now we are relying heavily on volunteers. We do feel very blessed to have the volunteers we have. Almost without exception, every time I’m feeling frustrated with the lack of time I can put towards SWR I get an email or a phone call from someone asking if they can help out. It has been remarkable.
The greatest need we have:
The greatest need we have is God’s mercy. I sincerely mean that. Our staff and financial resources are very limited. We desire to make lasting change for good on a global scope. With a task this grand, our own ambition, hard work and creativity is like tilting windmills.
Has it been a rewarding experience? What are your greatest experiences to date?
Unbelievably rewarding. I can’t even begin to explain emotion I feel when we receive a card or email from someone thanking us for the shoes. In terms of greatest experiences, I think two stand out to me. The first group of kids we sent shoes to in southeast Asia (specific location cannot be disclosed for safety purposes). They weren’t allowed to play in their league’s playoffs without footwear. We sent them 14 pairs of soccer cleats. I’m incredibly competitive, so just the idea that they were allowed to compete get me fired up. The second one is a vastly different story. We had been around for only about a month or two when I got an email from a young woman who was in the midst of her student teaching. She was very troubled because she was told she had to dress up for her first day of work but she could not afford nice shoes. This just reiterated to me the fact that the need is both across the globe and in our backyard.
Where do you envision the organization going?
I honestly don’t know. I hope we can help people for the next hundred years. We hope to include sports camps and education into what we do moving forward but that is still in the works.
How can people help?
Cover us in prayer. We need it. Like most nonprofits we are also looking for financial support. We are hoping to have 20 individuals support us monthly this year. People can also contact me if they know individuals that need shoes. Truthfully, we have about as many shoes as our storage unit can hold. Right now we just have to find people to donate them to!
One of the themes that I’ve noticed as a constant in the journey of a charity or organization like So We Run is the driving desire of the founders to “make a difference”. This is often due to a pressing need they feel has to be met. It’s not a duty, a job, or a chore; they do this because they care and are passionate about it. You get the feeling that there is a restlessness there, that if ignored will haunt them until they embrace the challenge. They aren’t titans of industry. They don’t have endless resources (in fact, quite the opposite), and there are no celebrity endorsements (yet). But the point is, they’re trying.
Faith & Fortune is always impressed with everyday people trying to do extraordinary things, and we’re happy to promote them. If you know of anyone with a similar story, let us know. We’d love to promote them too.
In the meantime, hopefully this story inspires you to take that step toward something you’ve been itching to give a try. Whether your motivation is faith based, self-inspired, or just a desire to be part of the solution, we applaud that and encourage you to give it a try. You won’t know if you have that special idea until you put it into action, and you may regret it if you don’t.
Good luck, and keep us posted!