Wednesday, August 12, 2015

August 2015 Trip Report

Another trip has come and gone. We've been home for a couple days now, and I'm still catching up on laundry and getting our personal suitcases back down to the basement. It was a great vacation though, and a successful shoe giveaway!

We arrived on Wednesday, July 29 and I think before we even arrived at the hotel people knew we were coming. We picked Thursday, July 30 at 1pm as the time to start our Soleful Suitcases pop-up boutique (doesn't that sound so much more fun than just plain shoe giveaway?) and word spread like crazy. We had several people ask if they could come a few minutes early because of their work schedule, and we tried to work with them.

Thursday came, and after lunch the hubs (Trevor) and I headed to our room to unpack suitcases and pair up the shoes. We got a room this year with a large ground floor deck, so we were able to push aside all the furniture and set the shoes out. Did I mention how many pairs yet? No? Oh, well it was EIGHTY-SIX!! pairs. Let me say that again. EIGHTY-SIX pairs! How awesome is that!!!

We put the men's on the left side and the women's on the right, and for about an hour and a half had a great time helping people find shoes and giving them two pairs of brand new socks as well. It was also great to see shoes from trips past still in great shape getting daily love on people's feet still. Seeing that just re-affirms to me that these shoes are filling a real need, are valued, and make a difference.

The pop-up boutique

We stopped for the afternoon, and still had about 25 pairs of shoes left. The night shift came on, and several of those people stopped by to pick up shoes as well.

We also had some larger men's shoes donated on this trip, which I'm thankful for. Often the larger footed men come, look, and leave empty handed. Not this time! One lifeguard came through on the
first day and was able to pick up a pair of shoes. He shared with me he had larger feet, and if there were any extra, he would be happy to take a second pair. After a couple days had gone by, I gave him two more pairs of the large size shoes. He was so darn happy. He shared with me that he has a hard time finding shoes his size that are affordable, and he'd been walking around in flip-flops for a while. With the gift of these shoes, he'd be able to go places and do things, and he couldn't wait for his next day off.

Another recipient of the larger size shoes was an older man who makes his living selling woven hats and bowls at different hotels in the area. He has put his four children through college this way, and is proud of that (as I would be too.) I was able to give him a pair of shoes this year, and he was so thankful as well.

Finally, pair 87 was given to a women who missed the initial giveaway. I was able to give her the pair that I'd been using all week, and was happy to make sure she received a pair.

As always, thank you for sharing your shoes, your suitcases, new socks, your warm thoughts and well wishes. These trips would not be possible. Each trip I wonder how many shoes we will receive, and if we will have enough suitcases to take them all. And each trip does not disappoint. It means so much to me that you believe in this little project of mine. But more importantly, it means the world to those who are on the receiving end of the shoes. You truly have a huge impact on their lives.

Here are just a few pictures of those receiving shoes.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Here We Go!

Since I put out the post that we were once again going, I have received a ton of positive support. Thank you! Those kind words continue to validate that we are doing something that needs to be done, and filling a void that would otherwise be left empty. Thank you for helping us achieve this. It really take a community to get this job done.

Shoes and suitcases are already starting to roll in. Thank you! With such a short time to prep for this trip I really didn't know what to expect. But you, the folks that read this, jump right in.

Here is where we are at so far.


Share your shoes, share your love, share your world. 

Total shoe count: 9 (0m, 9w)
For those keeping track, our current total sock need is as follows:
0 pairs of men's socks, 0 pairs received
18 pairs of women's socks, 0 pairs received
If you'd like to donate to Soleful Suitcases and our upcoming trip in July 2015, there are several ways to help. You can donate your in-good-shape, still life left, adult athletic shoes. You can donate brand new adult socks. School supplies are always welcome. Shop on Amazon via the link on the right hand size so we get credit to help pay for baggage  twitter @RunningWithHart
Melissa Hart  119 N. Parker St. #143 Olathe, KS 66061

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Clean Out Your Closets!


The Harts are headed back to Jamaica!

Wait, you thought I was going to tell you something else? Yeah right.

We really are headed back. We were going to try and go this Fall, but the timing with work and school schedules was off, and rather than wait any longer, I just booked the trip. For five weeks from now.

Yep, just five weeks. So, I need you to clean out your closets, like now. And hit up the Big Box store for some school supplies. Oh, and can you find a couple extra suitcases too? I'm gonna need some of those as well.

This is the shortest amount of time we've given ourselves to get ready for a trip, but I'm confident that it'll work out. I've got some faith that we can pull it off, and I know that you'll help!

What I'm looking for
-adult athletic shoes that still have life left in them
-brand new adult socks, ankle length
-brand new school supplies
-suitcases with enough life in them to hold 50 pounds on a one-way trip to Jamaica
-a couple of willing fools who don't mind getting up early to help at the airport in KC
-lots of good thoughts

Help me make this trip happen!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Trip Report 2014

Today is #GivingTuesday. What better way to give that to fill all of you in on our big give to Jamaica. It was big alright. Epic maybe.

Trevor packing the suitcases.

Kellee Cook and her mom, Konnee, helped with our luggage. They met us at the airport at 4:30AM! Checking the bags would have been a much harder task without them.

Our flights went just fine. We landed, gathered our 10 checked bags, 4 carry-ons, 2 kids, and made it to the customs line to leave the airport. When the agent saw our 10 bags she started asking questions as to why we had so many checked bags. We told her we were giving things away, and she sent us on to another line to be further screened.
Once in the new line, we waited. And waited and waited and waited. We were then asked to open, inspect, and close our luggage. Put them back on the cart, go here, do that all over, and go back there. It was The boys were tired, thirsty, hungry, and ready to be done. Trevor and I were ready to be done. And then customs asked us to pay a tax for all the 'gifts' we were bringing into the country. You see, you can bring in 5 like items, but once you reach 6, it is considered 'for resale', and you must pay a tax. (Never mind all the locals I saw bringing in backpacks full of cheap jewelry to be resold in tourist shops...) We went round and round, and it was decided that we must pay a 'reduced tax' of $210. Sigh. Just one more thing. Trevor and I were ready to be done and just leave everything there at the airport. We'd already paid to purchase a lot of the school supplies, spent hours sorting, packing, and getting it there. And then to get slapped with a tax when the people of Jamaica could so use these goods we were bringing. While waiting to surrender our luggage, I started talking to a man from the States who was living and working in Jamaica. He was also running into some trouble with the same customs agents who were working with us. He finally gave up on his. When I told him about ours, he didn't hesitate, and offered to pay our tax in full right then and there. He was appalled that we were being given so much trouble from a country in such need. It really was a great moment for us. Thank you Everett.

Thank you so much. After finally clearing customs
and getting our luggage loaded into
the waiting car, we were off!

Tuesday afternoon I started to unpack our 7 extra suitcases. We'd crammed in 91 pairs of adult athletic shoes, 1 pair of soccer cleats, 182 pairs of brand new socks, and about 150 pounds of school supplies. I started with the shoes. I lined the walls in our hotel room with pairs of shoes, and covered the bed with socks. Each person would receive 2 pairs of brand new shoes to go along with their new-to-them shoes.

Word spread quickly throughout the resort, and a couple of times I think we had over 25 people in our room, trying on shoes and getting socks.

It was a wonderful site. 91 people were able to walk away from our room that afternoon with a new pep in their step. Literally. I love that we impacted 91 lives that day. Immediately. And in such a positive way.

It was also really cool to see shoes from trips past still being worn and used. Still making an impact.

Pair 92 went to Omercye. He is in charge of fitness at the resort and makes a living out of wearing athletic shoes. I wanted to make sure he had a sold pair, so my parents purchased him a brand new pair.

Pair 93 went to Yanique, the woman in charge of the kid's programs. She wasn't able to make it to our room when all the shoes were being given away. I always bring down a pair of shoes for myself to run in while I'm there, so the night before we left I gave her my shoes, which fit perfectly. Yanique, like most of employees of the resort, spends her days on her feet. I was happy to pass them along to her.

Ryan received a pair of soccer cleats. They were too small for him, but he was going to pass them along to his brother. He informed us that these were really sweet cleats, a big deal.

Wednesday we headed to Brown's Town Infant School. When we pulled up to the school, the children were washing their hands before lunch at the sinks outside the school. Their water is on a well. While there, we heard the children talking about how the well had run dry for the day, and only half the kids were able to wash their hands. Sadly, this is common at schools all over the island. There are efforts to raise money to purchase water tanks for the schools to prevent this from happening. Tanks run about $500US. Perhaps this would be a goal for another trip...

While at the school we were able to give them about 150 pounds of basic school supplies like crayons, pencils and pen, glue sticks, colored pencils, scissors, bulletin board decorations, books, and hair bows. Lots and lots of hair bows. My friend Lisa makes hair bows and dropped off a large box. The little girls were so excited!

We toured the school, checking out each classroom, the library, and computer lab. Each classroom has 30 kids and they are crammed into a pretty tight room. The teacher is in charge of feeding each child breakfast and lunch, teaching, and recess duty. No prep time.

The children are given computer lab time. It is a small lab with pretty old computers, but they do the best they can with what they have.

The library is nice, open, and full of light. There are two sides to the library. The central government provides books on loan to the school to use, and they are kept on one side of the library. Teachers use these books, and children can look at them while they are in the library. These books must remain at school. The other, smaller side, are the books owned by the school. These books are also used by teacher and students, and students can check these books out and take them home over night for more reading opportunity. The books we provided the school with will stay in the school side, and increase the school's own library.

The children saying thank you!

Trevor and I would like to thank all of you for your support. It means so much to us. From the giving of your shoes, new socks and school supplies, to your time; it all adds up. Your support reinforces that I'm not crazy to take this on each trip. But mostly, it means the world to those on the receiving end. Your shoes impact lives, in a big way. Your school supplies impact entire schools. Thank you for all that you do to help us make these trips happen.

Share your shoes, share your love, share your world.