Your smelly old shoes could help a local animal rescue group save pets’ lives


Your stinky old sneakers at the back of the closet could help pay for formula for kittens. Or a specialty food for a foster dog. Or an incubator for a tiny puppy.

Volunteers in Palm Beach County with Good Karma Pet Rescue are collecting sneakers to help cover the costs of the foster-based dog and cat rescue organization, said volunteer Jessica Jerchower.

Jerchower, who lives in Wellington, has worked with Good Karma for about four years. She fosters cats, primarily pregnant or nursing female cats and tiny kittens that might need extra help with bottle feeding. She has two “foster fail” cats, Quinn and Frankie.

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Because Jerchower is so far from Good Karma’s home office in Fort Lauderdale and adoption center in Pompano Beach, she looks for ways to raise money so she and other local Good Karma volunteers don’t need to drive to Pompano Beach to pick up supplies.

Last fall, she was on Facebook when she saw something about fundraising using sneakers.

“I was definitely a little bit leery as to whether or not this was legitimate,” she said of the program, called GotSneakers. The Miami-based company takes in old sneakers, then pays fundraisers anywhere from 25 cents to $7 per pair. GotSneakers then separates the donated footwear, with about 10% being resold in the U.S., 80% being resold in emerging markets like Latin America and the Caribbean, and 10% being recycled for other uses, according to the GotSneakers website.

Jerchower requested five large bags to start. Each bag can be filled with sneakers and is postage paid to return to GotSneakers via FedEx, Jerchower said. Lo and behold, she sent the sneakers in — and received a check in return.

“It gives them to people in need,” she said. “The whole idea is keeping the sneakers out of the landfills, because they take hundreds of years to break down. If we recycle them or we give them to people who need them, then they’re not wasting space in a landfill.”

The first check arrived in October, and the payout from GotSneakers is monthly. The smallest check has been $99, and the largest $250, Jerchower said.

It’s been incredibly rewarding for Jerchower to see the number of sneakers being donated and how that money can help Good Karma’s network of adoptable pets.

“We have chat groups, and I’ll say, ‘OK, the sneaker money is in. What does everyone need?'” Jerchower said. The money has helped pay for special foods for some pets. She also used it to assemble what she called “neonatal starter sets,” or kits for volunteers who take in kittens that need to be bottle fed. The kits included a warming blanket, a scale, kitten formula and special nipples and bottles for the kittens.

Next month’s check will help local Good Karma volunteers buy incubators, she said.

“Look in your closet,” Jerchower said. “People don’t realize the shoes that they have.”

People may drop off sneaker donations at three locations in and near Wellington:

  • The Wellington Tennis Center, 3100 Lyons Road, Wellington
  • Club Pilates, 10660 Forest Hill Blvd., #140, Wellington
  • Inn the Doghouse, 7625 Lake Worth Road, Lake Worth

Sneakers must be paired together. Types of shoes that are not accepted include dress shoes, heels, rain boots, sandals, slip-ons, water socks, wedges and work boots. Shoes are considered recyclable if they are heavily used and beyond reuse. These shoes may have holes, rips, tears and stains. Shoes that may be reused are categorized according to the amount of wear and tear.

Jerchower hopes to partner with a Scout troop or other organization that would be interested in helping organize a fundraiser for Good Karma. She also said she can provide volunteer hours for teens who organize shoe drives.

“You’re helping the animals, and you’re helping the environment,” she said. “It’s a win-win.”

Click here for more information about Good Karma Pet Rescue, and click here for more information about GotSneakers.

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