CityTeam Ministries

Events, Rescue Missions, San Jose

CityTeam Ministries

No Comments 25 September 2010

We are excited to be heading back to San Jose for the San Jose Rock ‘n’ Roll 1/2 Marathon October 3rd.  Last year we collected 500 pairs of shoes that all went to help those in need in the local San Jose community. This year all the shoes we collect will be donated to CityTeam Ministries.

In San Jose, CityTeam Ministries is providing hot meals, safe shelter, showers, and clean clothing to this city’s homeless population. CityTeam also has a wonderful staff that care for and meet the needs of the youth and families in San Jose. A recovery program is in place for those men and women that are on a road of destruction from drugs and alcohol. CityTeam Ministries also distributes food boxes, backpacks filled with school supplies, clothing and household goods and furniture to families in need throughout the south Bay Area.

Thousands of people in the San Jose area woke up today hungry and homeless. For the poorest of the poor among us, this is real life. Living under bridges, rummaging through trash cans for scraps of food and desperately searching for other ways to survive. Many believe they are a throw-away society.

The CityTeam Rescue Mission restores hope, faith and dignity to the homeless who are easily overlooked in the community. Every night  homeless guests at the Rescue Mission are provided with food, a hot shower, toiletries, clean clothes, and a freshly laundered bed. A hot meal is often the first step to helping a homeless person get off the streets.

Even though running is considered an individual sport, at the San Jose Rock ‘n Roll 1/2 Marathon this year you can be part of a team, CityTeam! Make sure to gather as many pairs as you can, men’s, women’s and children’s, and donate them at the Health and Fitness Expo.  They always say there is strength in numbers, let’s prove it to those in need in San Jose by working together and donating another 500 pairs!

One Pair for Gina.

Chicago, Chicago, Events, Rescue Missions

One Pair for Gina.

No Comments 15 September 2010

From Left to Right: Tom Wicus, East Coast Director of Ops; My Mom; MacCallister Byrd, my older son; Me; Jackson Byrd, my youngest son; Melinda Byrd, my wife; Lindsey Nagy, GYS Board Advisor

Chicago started like any other event; me recruiting basically my whole family as volunteers to help collect shoes from all the runners and participants at the Chicago Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon.  Also joining us for this event were Tom and Lindsey from New York.  The team was assembled and ready to go.  All we needed now were for the people to come through the expo and donate their shoes.  Odd thing was, the expo was strangely slow for us.  The slowest expo to date as a matter of fact. What we collected in two days we normally collect in a half a day.  Not all was lost and to better explain, let me back up a few days.

I landed in Chicago a week before the event feeling positive knowing how much Chicago loves running.  Even though Chicago loves running, I knew I had to get the word out about us being at the Chicago Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in hopes of collecting as many pairs of shoes as possible for Breakthrough Urban Ministries.  What better way to get the word out, with no marketing budget, than good ‘ole social networking! The next few nights I was a Tweeting and Facebook crazed, non-profit peddling machine.  Anytime someone mentioned #RnRCHI on Twitter I was tweeting them.  Anytime someone posted something about the event on Facebook I was replying; all in hopes of getting the word out about donating their shoes.  I am constantly amazed by the connections that can be made from such valuable social networking tools.

Tom and I with Jason and Molly Mesnick

Through using Twitter I was able to meet Jason and Molly Mesnick from The Bachelor.  They both showed immediate interest in what we were doing.  What a blessing it was to have them reach out to me and ask how they could help.  Not only did they start spreading the news to over 40k of their followers but they also offered to come work the booth for awhile on Saturday.  It was having them hang out with us at the booth and in hindsight, even though the expo was slow for us, I was glad because it gave me time to get to know Jason and Molly.  Each of them have tremendous hearts for helping others.  Jason even has his own non-profit called Project Parachute that focuses on helping single parents in America by providing childcare scholarships and establishing single parent support programs across the nation.  After spending a couple hours together with them and getting to know one another I’m sure we will be teaming up again in hopes of helping the lives of those in need.

Ending the day with only 125 pairs I wasn’t quite sure what to expect come race day and to be quite honest, I was disappointed.  That’s what’s nice about having such a supportive family and team.  They always know how to keep things positive and focus on what is being accomplished – Helping others. Whether we collect another 125 pairs on race day or one pair, the fact was, we had collected 125 pairs for people in Chicago who might not otherwise have any.

Race Day. 6 am. It’s quiet. People are gear checking their clothes across from our booth. The race begins. 8:30 am comes and all heck breaks loose! Within three hours we take in 350 pairs and run out of flip flops to give people. People were coming by the booth, tossing shoes behind us, to the sides of us, in piles! It was awesome!  Total count for three days – 475 Pairs!  The 2nd largest collection to date at one event for us.  The message was clear, our job is not to worry about when and where the shoes will come from, but to do our due diligence in the work and be ready when it happens.

After all, it was just one pair that made a difference to Gina, not 475.

Chicago Rock ‘n’ Rollers Unite!

Chicago, Chicago, Events, Rescue Missions

Chicago Rock ‘n’ Rollers Unite!

No Comments 27 July 2010

Chicago Skyline

Chicago Illinois, to some is considered, “The Windy City”,  “Chi-Town, “The Chill”, “Chicagoland”, “The City of Broad Shoulders”, and even “New Gotham”.  To others living below the poverty level it’s considered just another place to survive.  The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless reports that there are 21,000 homeless people in Chicago on any given night.  Men. Women. Children. Families.

Give Your Sole hopes to alleviate some of the stress involved for these families when having to decide how to spend what money they do have. That is why we are excited to be partnering again with Breakthrough Urban Ministries and donating to them the shoes we collect from the Chicago Rock ‘n’ Roll 1/2 Marathon Health and Fitness Expo.

Some of the shoes collected at the 2009 Chicago Rock 'n' Roll 1/2 Marathon

Over the past seventeen years, Breakthrough Urban Ministries has provided sanctuary to more than 10,000 homeless people in Chicago seeking shelter from the effects of poverty and addiction.

For seven years, Breakthrough Urban Ministries has provided a network of support to over 500 children and their families seeking hope for a better future.

Each year, Breakthrough Urban Ministries serves…

64,000 meals to homeless men and women.

240 homeless men and women who find safe harbor in Breakthrough’s shelters.

120 homeless women by providing 24/7 shelter and free health care to those without insurance or Medicaid.

I’d like to thank Arloa Sutter , the leader and founder of Breakthrough Urban Ministries, for all her and her team does to partner with Give Your Sole making this such a great event for both parties.

Being born in Central Illinois I’m always excited to be able to work with organizations in Chicago and those who want to give back to their hometowns. That is why for this event we are fortunate to also partner with the Luol Deng Foundation founded by Professional Chicago Basketball star Luol Deng.  While our focus continues to be on those domestically who find themselves homeless or in need, we also realize that many across the globe face many similar, if not worse, circumstances.  Recently, Adam Andre, the director of the Luol Deng Foundation, returned from a trip with Luol to his hometown in Sudan where he saw first hand the degree of poverty only few can imagine.  Being friends with Adam and him knowing we would be in town collecting shoes at this event he reached out to me in hopes of being the recipient of whatever we could offer from our collection efforts. That is why I decided since we would be collecting for 3 days that we would donate the shoes we collect on race day to help their cause.  I’d like to thank Adam and Luol for thinking of us when they saw a need for shoes and having the desire to work together in hopes of providing much needed shoes to those living in poverty in the Sudan region.  We are happy the timing worked out for us to be able to form such a partnership during this event.

I’ve come to realize that as much pain as we see, we aren’t going to be able to help everyone not only in our great nation but those abroad. However, seeing these things will never stop us from trying and if a friend of mine has a heart for wanting to help others, I’m not about to stand in his way should he come to me. Knowing the tremendous hearts that all the Rock ‘n’ Roll runners and participants have from doing so many events I’d like to thank you in advance for the donations you are about to be make that will not only unite our three great organizations but more importantly unite those who “have” with those who “have not”.

How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!

Psalm 133:1

Events, Rescue Missions, Seattle, Seattle

Follow the Signs

2 Comments 02 July 2010

Under this sign everyone has shoes.

Under this sign people need shoes

What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like. – Saint Augustine

Last week took us to Seattle for the Seattle Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon & 1/2 Marathon.  Seattle is a city I have a love for because of my wife calling it home. Many friends and family remain in the rainy city.  I had been looking forward to attending this event ever since we missed it’s inaugural race last year.

To begin with, I had an amazing group of friends who I met all on Twitter that were helping me promote we would be in Seattle.  My friend Ryan Hodgson from Team Up for Non-Profits introduced me to Debbie Whitlock who hosts a radio show in Seattle. Not only was Debbie kind enough to volunteer her time to work our booth but she also had me on her radio show. (listen here) Thanks again Debbie!  The stage was set and we were ready to collect shoes on behalf of the Seattle Union Gospel Mission.

Look for this sign at your next race

Every event I can’t help but want to collect as many shoes possible.  This event was no different. The first day at the expo started out pretty slow until 6:30 pm when I got a call from a donor asking if I could meet her curbside to unload some shoes. As I approached her tailgate I was shocked! She had collected 6 HUGE garbage bags of shoes on her own. After hauling them inside I was off to an event hoping to network with people who I thought might be able to further our cause. I met some incredible people and made some great friends who I think will help us down the road. Only time will tell and that’s for another post.

After two days of collecting at the expo it was race day. I always enjoy race day because there is something breathtaking about people donating their shoes while facing sheer exhaustion. Even though their body is in turmoil their spirit still wants to give more and that is remarkable to me.

Race donor expressing her joy for giving

Luckily the Seattle rain never made an appearance and we were able to collect shoes from a great number of runners. By days end we had 452 pairs for those in need on the streets of Seattle. After we finished for the day, the shelter did their daily pickup onsite and took the shoes. By Monday they would be on the feet of people who needed them. Little did I know the first pair to be handed out would be to a woman who was in desperate need of shoes.

Feet of woman needing shoes

I showed up at the shelter Monday morning to get some film footage for our site and to interview a few people on the street about what it means to have a pair of shoes. Even though it was the mens shelter, this woman appeared in hopes of getting in for food. Little did she know a pair of shoes is what she would also receive. This picture doesn’t even begin to tell the story of what her feet looked like. They were swollen and cracked beyond anything imaginable. I went to the basement of the shelter where all the donated items were stored and started tearing open bags of shoes until I found 3 pairs that I thought might fit her. Most times people have forgotten their size, either because they have been wearing the wrong size to just make do or they have not had the money to buy an adequate pair. Lucky for her, the first pair she tried, fit.

If the shoe fits, it's yours!

As I look back on our transaction I remember she had a mask on for allergy reasons or health reasons of some other kind and we never exchanged names. I guess it really wasn’t necessary. All I could see was her eyes and as I looked up from her foot as it slid into her new shoe I could tell from the lines around her eyes a smile was under her mask. “Thank you sir” was all that was said and we parted ways.

There are many signs we come across in our daily lives. Sometimes if we follow them we stay out of harms way and if we don’t, bad things happen. I’m not sure what signs those on the street might have seen and not followed and to be honest it’s not for me to say they should have. All I know is, the sign I’ve read says for us to love our neighbor. That’s definitely one I think if we all followed more often would change the world. After all, you can’t look at this smile and tell me different.

Man on the street expressing his joy of receiving

Radio Spot on “I’m Thankful Network” in Seattle

Events, Seattle, video

Radio Spot on “I’m Thankful Network” in Seattle

No Comments 27 June 2010

Shoeless in Seattle

Events, Rescue Missions, Seattle, Seattle

Shoeless in Seattle

1 Comment 22 June 2010

Seattle Union Gospel Mission

We are extremely excited to be heading to Seattle this week not only to be a part of another great Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon presented by Competitor Group but to also work with the Seattle Union Gospel Mission as the recipient of all the shoes we collect over three days of being in town.  The Mission is the only shelter in King County that offers 3 meals a day, 7 days a week and averages 1200 meals a day.  The statistics for King County are alarming:

Homelessness in King County…

  • Over 8,961 people are homeless on any given night in King County
  • Children under the age of 18 make up 33 percent of the shelter and transitional housing population
  • Over 21 percent of the homeless population have experienced domestic violence
  • 18 percent of people living in shelters and transitional programs in King County are employed
  • 48 percent of the shelter population has been homeless one year or longer
  • 30 percent of homeless people sleeping outside spend the night in their cars.
  • In Seattle, the cost of supportive housing was estimated at $26 per person per day, in contrast with $87.67 for a day in jail, $555 for mental hospitals and $2,184 for hospitals

It is obvious there is a need for helping those on the streets of Seattle and the surrounding areas.  We know from talking with our contacts at the shelter that shoes will get used. Everyone knows that Seattle is damp and wet place to live; let alone having to do it on the streets…bare foot.  Spring rain brings beautiful flowers but for those living on the street it means wet, sore and badly blistered feet.  Brian, one of the men who frequents the shelter for meals, was heard saying, “Our feet get really chewed up”.

Man on streets of Seattle without shoes

We have an incredible opportunity this week to really make a difference and work to provide 8900 people on the streets with moderately worn shoes. We will be collecting shoes at the Health and Fitness Expo taking place at Qwest Event Center Thursday June 24th 11am-7pm and Friday 25th 10am-7pm.  We ask that you wash your shoes prior to donating them if possible, but not required.  We will accept all moderately worn men, women and children’s shoes.

Join us in making sure that every person in our country has a pair of shoes.  While housing continues to be the main issue when it comes to homelessness, so is helping people get back on their feet.  In order to do so, we must work together to give them something to stand in.


Red, White and Blue Weekend


Red, White and Blue Weekend

No Comments 19 May 2010

Give Your Sole is excited to be participating in this years Lake Elsinore Storm Baseball Red, White and Blue Memorial Day 5k/10k event.  The most popular minor league baseball team and Give Your Sole will be collecting moderately worn athletic shoes from participants attending this great event.  Shoe collections will begin at 7am and continue until 12pm located at the stadium (500 Diamond Drive, Lake Elsinore, Ca. 92530).  Enjoy the day at the park after the race in the beer garden listening to live music while the kids play in the kid zone.

All shoes that are collected will be donated to the Temecula Murrieta Rescue Mission.  Their vision is to create a Rescue Mission in the heart of the Southwest Riverside County in the Temecula Valley to serve the Least, the last, and the Lost.  In order to successfully achieve this vision a joint venture has been developed between Rancho Community Church and the Orange County Rescue Mission.  The 2009 County of Riverside Homeless Count and Survey findings revealed that 2,043 homeless individuals were unsheltered and 1,323 were sheltered for a point-in-time total homeless population of 3,366 individuals. Data from the count and surveys were used to calculate the number of persons who experienced homelessness over the course of the year which equaled 11,191.

Make it a family event this Memorial Day Weekend and head to the ballpark to help those less fortunate by donating your shoes.  What could be more Red, White and Blue than spending the holiday with family while supporting a great cause!

Thank you for your support.

Give Your Sole hits the Big Apple with 13.1 Series

Events, New York

Give Your Sole hits the Big Apple with 13.1 Series

1 Comment 09 February 2010

Inaugural 13.1 Marathon New York April 3rd, 2010

Inaugural 13.1 Marathon New York April 3rd, 2010

Give Your Sole is excited to announce they will be attending the 13.1 Marathon Inaugural New York race, another great event put on by US Road Sports and Entertainment Group.  On April 3rd, 2010 runners will take to the streets of New York starting in historic Flushing Meadows Park in front of Arthur Ashe stadium and finishing in the shadow of the Unisphere. Give Your Sole will be collecting all your moderately worn tennis shoes, sneakers and athletic shoes of any kind at the packet pick up locations on Thursday April 1st and Friday April 2nd prior to race day.  Give Your Sole will be collecting shoes on race day as well at their booth (located near the Team World Vision booth) near the finish line. For those who want to donate the shoes right off their feet, FREE Give Your Sole flip flops (while supplies last) will be provided so you won’t go home barefoot.

All the shoes collected at this particular event will be donated to the New York Rescue Mission to help people in need. New York City Rescue Mission was the first homeless shelter in NYC to open its doors every day to alcoholics and the underserving poor for its soup kitchen meals and Christian gospel services. Since 1872, thanks to donations and volunteering, this non-profit ministry has helped alleviate homelessness, hunger and addiction by providing emergency services such as food, clothing, shelter, counseling and spiritual hope.

Give Your Sole partners with New York Rescue Mission

Give Your Sole partners with New York Rescue Mission

This event is going to be one you’ll remember.  By combining our passion for running and helping those in need we are excited to work together with the people of New York in being able to give back to such an incredible city in hopes of making life a little bit easier for those on the streets.  Make sure to get signed up for this inaugural race and remember to bring your shoes! See you soon New York!

ABC 15 – Sonoran Living TV Show

Arizona, Events, video

ABC 15 – Sonoran Living TV Show

No Comments 02 February 2010

Rise of the Phoenix

Arizona, Events, Phoenix

Rise of the Phoenix

No Comments 26 January 2010

Race Day Morning
Race Day Morning

It didn’t take the runners 500 years to rise up and breathe life into charity at the P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona marathon and 1/2; they did it in three days. Give Your Sole received over 500 pairs of shoes throughout the weekend’s convention and racing events, which are already helping those less fortunate in the Phoenix area.

This was our first big event of 2010 and it didn’t disappoint. Our weekend started early Friday morning with a news segment on Sonoran Living, ABC – KNXV Phoenix local. Brett put his camera “shyness” aside and sent forth our message in crystal clear fashion. We were also able to gain the support of Miss Arizona, USA 2010 – Brittany Bell who happened to be in the studio audience that morning.

Tom with Miss Arizona showing her support
Tom with Miss Arizona showing her support

Off to the Health and Fitness Expo at the convention center where we were eager to meet and spend some time with Brenda Combs. Before I continue though, a great, big, huge THANK YOU needs to go out to all those who helped volunteer while in Phoenix. Without your support (Russ, Melinda, Jack, John, Jake, Kyle, Peggy, Steve and Helen) we would have never been able to do all that we did that weekend.

The Volunteers rocking the booth!
The Volunteers rocking the booth!

Imagine waking up one day to find yourself lying in an alley, not knowing how you got there, it’s hot – you’re confused, hungry and hurting. Looking around, all you see is broken glass, needles and sharp stones lining all paths leading you to more familiar grounds. You gather yourself to get back on your feet to walk to, well, walk to anywhere but there. It’s then you realize that if you’re going to take those necessary steps, you’re going to have to do so barefoot; someone has stolen your shoes. I’d like you to meet Brenda Combs.  One could learn a lifetime of lessons in spending sixty minutes with Brenda and her son Mycole as we did Friday afternoon, but it simply wasn’t enough time to capture her amazing story. More on that later…..

Convention bound – it was the first event of 2010 both Brett and I were able to attend and it was great to feed off each other’s energy and passion for purpose in Give Your Sole. We met some incredible people throughout the weekend. Some believed so deeply in what we were doing, they asked to wear a Give Your Sole t-shirt during their run of the marathon on Sunday.

Tom with Give Your Sole supporter Debbie
Tom with Give Your Sole supporter Debbie

Lunch with Team World Vision – Comrades in training, a heartfelt driven group of individuals whose compassion and cause goes beyond words.

These boys mean business when it comes to making a difference
These boys mean business when it comes to making a difference

Saturday morning we were able to meet with Brenda again and her husband Tony Carter through a retracing of steps where they were both homeless over ten years ago, from the 7th Avenue Bridge where hope was lost to the shoeless alley where hope was miraculously found.

Brenda and Tony
Brenda and Tony

It’s no wonder she is the ambassador of inspiration for Grand Canyon University, she has truly walked through many hardships and become a stronger individual because of these journeys.

While we’re on the subject of miracles, imagine if everyone that stopped by our expo booth on Friday, did so with a pledge to come back on Saturday with a few pairs of shoes to donate. Now imagine someone actually coming back with over thirty-five pairs. Thank you Robbie Sittman! A perfect lead into the marathon on Sunday, early morning – chill in the air, a grand setting for a “giving” day. Charity does not discriminate; neither does misfortune, homelessness, hope or guidance. This is what was shown to us throughout the weekend. Our gratitude goes out to all those who donated. After the race ended and over 500 shoes were gathered, it was time to call it a day. We were privileged to one more gift before leaving though, Brett noticed three big bags of runners clothes near a dumpster that were collected and left for trash. Certainly ten loads of wash would be worth the effort in picking them up to be donated with the collected shoes!

I met Nicole Pena, Shawn McCullam and Brenda at the Phoenix Rescue Mission on Tuesday to take part in giving the shoes to those in need. Though most of the recipients were a bit shy to the video camera, the images of gratitude they left with me will far outreach any words they might have spoken.

Nicole and Shawn from Phoenix Rescue Mission
Nicole and Shawn from Phoenix Rescue Mission

After all, isn’t integrity doing what’s right when no one is looking or more importantly when one needs no proof of what has been done.

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