Columbia realtors collect shoes for Joplin tornado victims

Tuesday, May 24, 2011 | 4:36 p.m. CDT; updated 10:46 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, May 24, 2011

COLUMBIA — Standing in the Schnucks store parking lot, realtor Shannon O’Brien dangled a sparkly pink shoe from her index finger and twirled it around.

“This is going to make some little girl's day,” she said.

O’Brien, along with other members of the Columbia Board of Realtors, was collecting shoes for those affected by the F5 tornado that swept through Joplin Sunday evening.

The board collected shoes of all kinds — including a pair of Winnie the Pooh Bearslippers — from 6 to 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Schnucks store on Forum Boulevard. Members will be back in the parking lot at the same time Wednesday to continue the collection.

Shoe donations can also be made at Remax Boone Realty on East Broadway, House of Brokers Realtyon Chapel Hill Road and the Columbia Board of Realtors on I-70 Drive Northwest. The board will continue taking donations at these three locations until noon Wednesday.     

“They are going to be taken over to the Board of Realtors and paired up and boxed up, and then the goal is to have them on a truck and set for delivery tomorrow," O’Brien said Tuesday.

The Columbia Board of Realtors contacted the Joplin Board of Realtors Monday morning to see how it could help the relief effort. O’Brien said the Columbia board was “completely” surprised when the Joplin board asked for shoes only.

“I asked them,” said Michael Brown, CEO of the Columbia Board of Realtors. “I said, ‘Will you clarify that? You don’t want water or Band-Aids?’ He said, ‘No, we need shoes.’ I’ll get you some shoes.”

O’Brien said they expected Joplin's board would ask for items such as water, medical supplies or canned food.

“This was really very surprising, but really it’s an immediate need that is stunning,” she said.

The shoes sat in piles on the parking lot blacktop, many still in the boxes and bags donors had bought them in only hours earlier. Jet Roberts, who works for KFRU/1400 AM radio and helped organize the shoe drive, said they planned to keep the shoes organized, but soon there were too many to categorize.

There was a steady stream of people dropping off footwear, ranging from work boots to hibiscus-adorned flip-flops. One woman came back because she realized one shoe she had dropped off was missing its mate.

“It’s amazing what people will do when they’re asked,” Roberts said.

There were radio advertisements for the shoe drive, a Facebook page and tweets about the event.

Realtor Brent Gardner said he thinks they received more than 1,000 pairs of shoes Tuesday.

“They talked about it yesterday afternoon twice (on the radio) and nothing all night," Gardner said. "But then, this morning... it’s amazing."

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