Monday, August 31, 2009

TOMS gives away shoes in New Orleans

The company TOMS not only sells comfortable shoes, they also give them away. Last week, TOMS gave away thousands of pairs to children in New Orleans.

From this story that we found in the New Orleans Times Picayune, writer Susan Langenhennig tells us more about the unique company.

Two years ago, Blake Mycoskie came to New Orleans to sell some shoes. He came back last week to give some away.

You might not know his name, but you've probably seen his face. Mycoskie is the founder of TOMS, Shoes for Tomorrow, a company with an unusual business model: For every pair of shoes it sells, it gives away a pair to a child (or in some cases, adult) in need.

Mycoskie is the first to admit his mission is as compelling as his shoes -- a comfortable canvas slip-on modeled after the traditional Argentine alpargatas. His story is a good one: young, idealistic guy out to prove philanthropy can be fashionable and profitable. His business card lists his title as "chief shoe giver."

On Thursday, he arrived at Langston Hughes Elementary School in Gentilly with an entourage of 20 volunteers from around the country and one from Canada. A total of 33 volunteers paid their own travel expenses just to be part of the New Orleans TOMS "shoe drop."

In three days, the company gave away 2,000 pairs of shoes to students at Langston Hughes, Lafayette Academy, ARISE Elementary, Akili Academy and Martin Behrman Elementary schools. TOMS staff contacted local social workers and the KidSmart organization to identify schools with serious needs. ABC's "Good Morning America" was here to capture it all on camera.

Though he enjoyed joking around with the local kids on Thursday, Mycoskie remains committed to fighting poverty abroad, particularly in Ethiopia, where one of the company's factories is located.

"There's an illness there that people get that creates leg and foot swelling, and it's really awful and completely preventable," he said. "A doctor we're working with thinks we can eradicate this disease in 20 years."

The illness affects 15 percent of the population of southern Ethiopia. "I don't know who I'm going to marry or if I'll ever have kids," Mycoskie said. "But I do know that every year for the next 20 years, I'm going to Ethiopia."

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