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N.L. Runners group collecting sneakers for a good cause

Taking Strides NL hopes to collect thousands of pairs of used sneakers to donate to the Gathering Place in St. John’s. — Stock photo
Taking Strides NL hopes to collect thousands of pairs of used sneakers to donate to the Gathering Place in St. John’s. — Stock photo - Contributed

Taking Strides NL is partnering with the Tely 10 again this year to secure donations of sneakers from participants in the road race in support of The Gathering Place in St. John’s.

The potential is huge.

If every person entered in this year’s Tely 10 donated one pair of old sneakers, The Gathering Place in St. John’s would get 4,682 pairs of sneakers for its participants.
The majority of runners taking part in the race go through approximately four pairs of sneakers each year as committed runners. If each of those pairs were donated, there would be approaching 19,000 pairs donated to the worthwhile community venture.

Taking Strides NL is partnering with the Tely 10 again this year to secure donations of sneakers from participants in the road race in support of The Gathering Place in St. John’s.
Taking Strides NL is partnering with the Tely 10 again this year to secure donations of sneakers from participants in the road race in support of The Gathering Place in St. John’s.

So, any time you can pair together several great community-minded partners there can be nothing but winners. That is what Taking Strides NL is doing again this year as the organization partners with the Tely 10 committee to collect pairs of used sneakers from the participants in the 2018 event in aid of The Gathering Place in St. John’s.

In addition, the Athletics North East Run Club and its executive are continuing support of this venture. It’s a very community-minded organization that supports the St. John’s REAL (Recreation, Experiences and Leisure) program, offers a MUN scholarship and offers financial and moral support to their members who are going through illness.

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Many of the participants and the general public have excess footwear kicking around the house that could go to a new home in the community to aid those less fortunate with a new-to-them pair of sneakers.
“Our goal is to collect 2,000 pairs of sneakers, but we will take as many over and above that as we can get,’’ said Susan Matthews, co-founder of Taking Strides NL .“All of the sneakers will go to The Gathering Place, but if we get cleats and other sporting footwear, we will donate them to the REAL program.”.

Taking Strides NL has two community partnerships this year — the REAL program and The Gathering Place.
“It’s a way to help our community with no cost to the runners,” Matthews said.
“This a great way to keep sneakers on the feet of people who need than and out of the landfills,’’ she added.

To entice people to donate, one pair, or as many pairs as they have to give, Taking Strides NL is offering a door prize to a lucky donor.

“Last year we collected around 500 pairs of sneakers. That is only a small number for the number of registered runners for the Tely 10,” she said.
“The average person that runs all year long will go through about four pairs of sneakers. We need to get all of those old sneakers,’’ she added.

So as part of each runner’s pre-race preparation, Matthews hopes they will gather up the shoes they have, toss them into a bag and bring them along when they come down to pick up their race kits.

The donations can be dropped off starting on July 19 (7-8:30 p.m.) at the Re/Max Centre (St. John’s Curling Club), located at 135 Mayor Ave., in St. John’s.
Items can also be dropped off on Friday, July 20 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4-7 p.m. and again on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4-7 p.m.

Footwear, sneakers in particular, is in big demand for participants at The Gathering Place as the majority of its clients walk to their destinations.
Once the sneakers have been collected and donated, The Gathering Place will sort them by size and set up in an area where those in need can come in, try a pair on for size and be fitted with new footwear. Not only does it help with their foot health, it will help with their self-esteem as they will have footwear as good as anyone else in the community.

Who it serves
The Gathering Place was founded in 1994 by the Sisters of Mercy and the Presentation Sisters in response to the needs of those seeking food and to help combat people in the community who suffer from a host of issues that includes hunger, abuse, mental illness, physical disabilities and addictions.

The facility offers a safe haven for those individuals who have nowhere else to turn. The participants in a Gathering Place program are provided with a number of services that includes a meal or a shower; medical care or a place to just sit and rest. In addition, people get dignity at the Gathering Place because everyone deserves compassion and it operates on the basis of anonymity.

More than 800 volunteers give time to The Gathering Place — more than 100 per day — and many more are required as the demand for its services continues to grow.

Volunteers who work the lunch program serve more than 350 meals during the noon hour and more than 120 breakfasts earlier in the day.
“We used to see four or five new people on a daily basis and now we are seeing 20 new people per day, Joanne Thompson, executive director of The Gathering Place said in a recent interview for another article in The Telegram.
“The numbers keep going up. They are more than double than what they were when I took on this role three years ago. These are significant increases. We are anticipating we will see hundreds of new people here this summer,” she added.

Thompson said The Gathering Place is being strained on two levels, the biggest is funding as they only get a small amount of its operating money from the government and secondly on staff, the majority of which are volunteers.

Financial and in-kind donations, such as the one from Taking Strides NL, and from service organizations, church groups, foundations, corporations and individuals are used to operate The Gathering Place.

New programs and services have been added to address the growing needs of the guests including foot care, clothing supply boutique and a hair care service.

In addition, guests have access to housing experts, nurses and social workers who help address complex needs, in addition to advocacy, literacy and computer programs.

samuel.mcneish@thetelegram.com

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