The Fox Chapel Garden Club has had a record year with its annual tennis shoe recycling program.
A group of volunteers, led by co-chairs Ellen Romsers and Susie Williams, collected 3,198 shoes between late August and early October.
The club’s project aimed at recycling sportswear has been carried out for the 15th year in a row.
Donation boxes have been placed in churches, schools, Cooper-Siegel Community Library, sports clubs, fitness centers and therapy centers.
According to Romsaas, the harvest is about 50% higher than last year and the club is very grateful to all who have contributed.
“We were surprised,” Williams said. “It was about a thousand more shoes than we normally get. (People) have shoes for it.”
The timing of the drive is no accident. The club launches a collection for the back-to-school season to catch families cleaning out their closets.
“When we started this 15 years ago, we were trying to bring young people into the fold,” Williams said. “I did it with a Girl Scout troop for the first 10 years, but it was canceled due to COVID-19.
“When we put these boxes out, they fill up quickly….We do it because it was so popular, people expected it, and it was successful.”
The condition of the shoes ranged from those with a little feeling of use to those that could not be worn.
Volunteers packed 46 boxes, or 2,592 shoes, and sent them to the Nike Shoe Recycling Program.
Its materials are made into running tracks, playground mats, and others including rubber, foam, textiles, leather, textiles.
Since 1992, Nike Grind has recycled 130 million pounds of sneaker material, according to the company’s website.
For more information on Nike’s recycling program, visit nike.com/a/recycle-old-shoes.
The Fox Chapel Garden Club divided the remaining 303 pairs of shoes between Braddock’s Free Store and Sharpsburg’s Second Harvest Recycled Store.
“We replace who they’re given,” Williams said of the shoe distribution. “Second Harvest is a relatively new store and members volunteer there.”
Second Harvest executive director Bonnie DeMotte said this year was the first time her store had participated in a shoe recycling initiative and praised the garden club for its support.
“They have been supporters in the past,” DeMott said. “It was a natural partnership because many of our Garden Club members volunteer here. Get shoes. Many shoes in poor condition are donated and handed over for recycling.
“We are thrilled[to be a part of this]. Our mission is about sustainability and reuse, and it is great to see another organization hoist its flag and spread its message. It’s exciting.”
For more information on what the Garden Club does and how to get involved, visit foxchapelgardenclub.org.
Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Tribune-Review. You can reach Michael at 412-871-2367, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on his Twitter. .