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Cleaning out the closet

Robert Tyndale in his store, Room 322, is heading up a project to send shoes to school kids in Jamaica

Restored Soles collecting shoes for Jamaican youth

When you own a men’s clothing and footwear store you notice things—like shoes. On Robert Tyndale’s last few trips to Jamaica visiting family, he noticed the shoes of the kids in some of the poorer areas and how they seemed to be getting by on very little.

“I went to a few schools and noticed the kids were walking around in beat up, destroyed shoes. And I was like, ‘Wow. I have so many lightly used, almost brand-new shoes that are just collecting dust in my closet that I kind of don’t like anymore or don’t wear.’ And I thought it would be really interesting to send some down there,” he recalls.

Tyndale, who co-owns Room 322 with his brother and cousin, spread the idea of Restored Soles to family, friends and others, and last year they sent about 500 pairs of shoes to Jamaica. Converse has jumped on board with donations and Jason Markk has donated its shoe cleaner product to get the footwear looking spiffy before it’s shipped out.
This year’s big event is September 29, when donations will be received in the lot behind the store at 10988 – 124 St. The goal is to double last year’s donations and send 1000 pairs of shoes. Folks can drop by all afternoon from 1 pm – 6 pm with donations and hang out eating, listening to Caribbean music, local DJs and spoken-word poetry. There will also be some Golden Bears basketball players on hand to teach the kids some hoop tricks.

In addition to youth-sized shoes—Tyndale points out that doesn’t mean not to bring your size 10s and 11s, since they’re bound to fit someone—they’ll be collecting school supplies for the Backpack Project.

“One of the issues is that in some of the smaller, kind of poorer parts of Jamaica, they don’t really have some of the essentials that we take for granted here in Edmonton … those little things that we don’t really think about—pens, paper, because they’re abundant—over there it’s kind of a different story. So that was where we got more inspiration to build on this project,” he notes.

Tyndale will visit Jamaica again in January 2013 in time to be there when all the shoes and school supplies arrive as it takes about two months to ship them. He’ll be putting together a video project to show where the donations go and how they make an impact to youth in Jamaica.

“With bigger compassion projects and not-for-profits you never really see the end result—whether it’s a monetary donation or a product donation—it kind of ends right there. So we wanted to take it a step further and showcase everyone. If someone’s watching the video they might be like, ‘Oh, those are my shoes!’ We really want to capture that experience over all.”

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