Five years ago, the Used Shoes for the Homeless program was inspired by a few usable used tennis shoes being left on a shelf at the SaddleBrooke Tennis Center. Jerry Fay had been working with a homeless group and asked if they had a need for such shoes. The answer was a resounding yes, and the first donation bin was placed at the Tennis Center. The original name of the program was Used Tennis Shoes for the Homeless, and only tennis shoes were donated. After a short time, the program expanded to include all types of shoes and socks, and an additional bin was placed at the SaddleBrooke pickleball courts. The SaddleBrooke Ranch Pickleball Association has also participated in donations.
In 2022 the program was honored with a Ben’s Bells Award. The mission of Ben’s Bells is to inspire people to practice kindness as a way of life and create a ripple effect of kindness throughout communities. Ben’s Bells began in 2002, inspired by a personal tragedy that showed how a small act of kindness could make such a difference in a person’s life. Jeannette Maré, the founder of the program, wanted to find a way to teach others about the impact of intentional acts of kindness.
To date, over 3,500 pairs of shoes have been donated to an expanded list of homeless service providers. Shoes are one of the most needed items for the homeless, and demand continues to exceed the need. Currently, the program is distributing the shoes to five locations serving homeless women, men, and children in the Tucson region: The Z Mansion, the Gospel Rescue Mission, the Salvation Army, the Casa Maria Shelter, and the Sister José Women’s Center. The Z Mansion provides a weekly Sunday brunch and bag lunch to more than 200 individuals, plus a soup kitchen every day and limited medical services. The Gospel Rescue Mission provides daily food, showers, and a safe place to sleep—the kind of security necessary for individuals and families seeking a second chance in life. The Salvation Army Hospitality House is a 100-bed facility with separate accommodations for men and women and apartments for families. Casa Maria provides services for homeless men, and Sister José Center provides care and nurturing for homeless women.
As long as they are in good condition, shoes of all types are acceptable—tennis shoes, sandals, hiking boots, men’s and women’s dress shoes, and slippers, as well as socks. To increase the number of shoes being donated, we are encouraging all SaddleBrooke residents to participate in the program. Drop-off bins are located at the Tennis Center and the Robson pickleball facility.
A big thank you to the tennis and pickleball players who have generously supported the program through their donations over these past five years and to the volunteers who have helped pick up and distribute shoes.