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Holiday party gets a purpose — and a whole lot of shoes

Thursday, December 23, 2010 | 3:14 p.m. CST; updated 3:22 p.m. CST, Thursday, December 23, 2010
Travis Figg digs through a bag of donated shoes in his Edward Jones office in Columbia. Figg ask his clients to bring in unneeded shoes during his office party.The shoes will be donated to Shoeman Water Project, which in turn provides clean water to developing countries.

COLUMBIA — Travis Figg, an Edward Jones financial adviser, was always going to have his holiday party. But after he heard George Hutchings speak about his Shoeman Water Project at a meeting of the Boonslick Kiwanis, Figg decided to deepen its purpose.

"What can we do besides have people come and eat snacks?" he said he wondered.

Where to donate shoes

Travis Figg will collect shoes at his office, 1400 Hathman Place, for the rest of the year. Other Columbia donation locations, as found on the Shoeman Water Project website, are:

  • The Alpine Shop, 1102 E. Broadway
  • Creative Days Art Studio, 1204 Rodgers St.
  • Forum Christian Church, 3900 Forum Blvd.
  • The Gown House, Suite 9A, 1729 W. Broadway,
  • Heyen Wellness Therapies, 501 W. Botner Road
  • Latter House Kingdom Ministries Church, 4919 Prairie St.
  • Mid-Missouri Clinic of Chiropractic, Suite 104, 4040 Rangeline St.

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The result, so far, has been the collection of more than 1,000 pairs of shoes. The Shoeman Water Project operates nationwide to collects shoes, which are sold to exporters and retailers in a developing country. The money is then used to fund drilling water well and bringing water purification systems to those who don't have clean drinking water.

In November, students at West Junior High School turned over almost 3,400 pairs for the project.

Figg has been collecting shoes from his clients since the Dec. 3 office party, which Hutchings drove from Ballwin to attend.

"Our original goal was to get 100 pairs of shoes," Figg said. "We quit counting at 500. There's at least double that in there."

Figg said at least one pair of shoes has been brought in every day since the party. Although the idea to ask for shoe donations was his, he attributes much of the success to Susan Houston, his branch office administrator. Houston always explained the project and the cause to encourage his clients to donate, he said.

"She deserves at least as much, if not more, credit than I do," Figg said.

And it's not just tennis shoes that people are dropping off, either. Figg has received cowboy boots, flip flops, slippers, dress shoes, even baseball cleats.

"Everybody has extra shoes," he said. "It's something that people didn't have to reach into their pockets for. People didn't have to get out their checkbooks to make a difference."

Pam Anderson, who was filling in for Houston on Thursday while she is on vacation, was impressed by the number of shoes Figg has collected. A pile of boxes and bags containing shoes, probably 4 feet high and 10 feet wide, dominates the office.

"He really put his heart and soul into it," Anderson said. "It's a really beautiful project."

Figg, who thinks he'll do this again next year, said he's learned a lot this time around.

"The power of a small group of people if they really focus their energy, it can lead to really good success," he said.

 


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