Lauren Karnitz wants your shoes – any of them.

Karnitz, who will be a junior at RVHS this fall, is currently collecting new and gently used shoes for a project that is helping get footwear into the hands and on the feet of people who are in need.

The collection is being done through an organization which is known as Fund2Orgs.

“What I found was that Fund2Orgs takes the donated shoes and uses them to create microenterprises in developing countries,” said Karnitz. “Microenterprises are small businesses usually run by one person or one family. These businesses take the donated shoes and revitalize them, so they can be used by people in need. The unused shoes that you and I have sitting in our closest can instead be used by someone to get to work or get to school.”

For Karnitz, the idea to collect shoes came as a way for her to help others and provide some funds for a personal opportunity as well. 

This past spring Karnitz was nominated to join the Minnesota Music Ambassadors program trip to Europe next summer. This group, which is made up of high-school band and choir students from all over Minnesota, travels to seven different European countries over 16 days performing at various sites throughout Europe.

Considering it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Karnitz started thinking about ways to raise the funds to make the trip a reality.

“I work a couple of part-time jobs, but I knew I would need some creative ideas to come up with enough money for the trip,” Karnitz said.

Looking online for ideas, Karnitz came across Fund2Orgs.

“As a runner, I go through a lot of shoes,” she said.

Karnitz also knew she had a lot of shoes in her own closet that were collecting dust. She figured there were others like her and determined collecting shoes was an idea that might work.

She did additional research to determine the organization was reputable and then started sharing through social media that she was collecting.

“The microenterprises provide a way for these adults to earn a living and support their families,” said Karnitz.

Each year, said Karnitz, there are more than 600 million shoes that are thrown away in the United States alone. She knows many of those shoes can be reused giving them a new purpose and helping others in need along the way.

Karnitz is continuing her collection through the end of August with the goal of getting 3,000 pairs of shoes. Her initial collection resulted in donations of 300 pairs of shoes.

She has since contacted other organizations, churches and businesses to help create partnerships and spread the word. Karnitz said she has had a good response from people who are willing to donate, adding the excitement and enthusiasm of others has helped to make her efforts even more fun.

“It seems like everyone has a couple of pairs of shoes that are sitting around and don’t quite fit right or that they just don’t wear anymore,” she said.

All sizes and kinds of shoes are being collected by Karnitz, including dress shoes, casual shoes, cleats, boots, sneakers and sandals. The shoes need to be gently worn with no holes or worn down soles.

New shoes may also be donated, and Karnitz said since announcing her collection she has had a few pairs of new donations, too.

Those who are interested in donating to the cause may drop them off at Culligan Water and Kohls-Weelborg Ford in Redwood Falls, as well as at the Redwood Falls Public Library.

All of the Harvest Land Cooperative sites, including Morgan, Comfrey, Clements, Wabasso, Springfield and Morton, are also places where shoes may be dropped off for the collection.

Karnitz is gathering the shoes that are being donated in her garage for future sorting and packaging.

“At this point, we can still park the car in the garage,” she said. “Hopefully by the end of summer, the garage will be filled with shoes, and we’ll be parking in the driveway.”

Karnitz said the collection has been a great learning experience for her.

“I didn’t know that one pair of shoes could do so much good,” she said. “It makes me want to find other ways to help or to make a bigger difference.”

Karnitz is hoping this is just the first step in a future of helping others.

One can find our more about her collection efforts online at www.youcaring.com/laurenkarnitz-815805.