A charity launched by the survivor of a terrifying road crash has gained its first foothold in Wales, thanks to a Rhos-on-Sea shoe shop owner.
Hal Holmes-Pierce kickstarted Shoe Aid in North Wales after being shocked by statistics revealing millions of discarded good-quality shoes go to landfill every year while the poverty-stricken walk around in dilapidated footwear.
The former merchant seaman who runs Elevate Your Sole in Penrhyn Avenue, Rhos-on-Sea, has become the first Wales representative of Shoe Aid.
The 29-year-old is urging people to donate unwanted shoes, from designer makes to casuals, sandals, slippers and wellies, which will be handed to vulnerable people in the UK and abroad.
Shoe Aid collects good condition second hand shoes and since July 2010 it has shipped half a million pairs worldwide. It delivered 700 pairs to victims of the Grenfell Tower fire in London, and sent 200,000 shoes to UK homeless, and 2,000 to earthquake survivors in Nepal.
Hal said: “I’m proud Elevate Your Sole will be the charity’s first Wales-based representative but I’m keen to get other businesses in the area involved too.
“This is such an amazing cause and its achievements are twofold. It provides desperately needed footwear to people in dire straits and is environmentally friendly, stopping tons of discarded shoes going to landfill every week.”
Hal will be collecting shoes and boots to send to the charity, with discounts for customers who donate their unwanted footwear.
Among those who will encouraging people to hand over their unwanted footwear is Anna Openshaw, project manager for Colwyn Business Improvement District (BID).
She said: “We’ve a real community spirit in the BID area and this is such a worthy cause I’m sure local businesses will get behind Hal.
“People discard shoes without really thinking, either for a change or to keep up with fashion. By taking them to Hal’s shop they’ll help those who don’t even have one pair.”
More than 1.5 billion people, including 300 million children worldwide, are without shoes. A quarter of a million UK homeless people have no proper footwear and 70 million shoeless children globally are denied an education because shoes are part of their school uniform. Many third world youngsters struggle to walk miles to school without adequate footwear.
Hal said: “The figures are shocking especially when two million shoes are dumped every year despite most being perfectly wearable.
“We want to raise awareness and encourage people not to discard shoes but donate them to Shoe Aid to recycle for people in crisis.
“The charity is already having success but as the only partner in Wales I’m going to try my absolute best to raise awareness locally and nationally. We’re looking to collaborate with other local businesses so I would encourage people to get in touch if they think they can help.”
The charity was set up by Lee Todd after miraculously escaping unscathed when a car in which he was a passenger was hit by a juggernaut, spun round and pushed sideways along the M1 motorway.
Lee, from Nottinghamshire, who has worked for more than 27 years in the shoe sales industry, said that he was delighted the charity now has a Wales partner.
He added: “The further we expand the better. Hal’s commitment to our cause is commendable and furthers our aim to have a base in all UK regions.”
He was motivated to start the charity following a potentially-fatal crash near Leeds. He said: “We were on our way home when the car was hit from behind. People ask if your life flashes before you in these circumstances and I can promise you it did. Climbing over the lorry’s front grille I could not believe we got out of it alive.
“I am not a particularly religious person but having survived something like that I decided there must be a reason why I escaped and that’s when I had the idea to launch Shoe Aid.”
Hal, whose wife Lesley is expecting their first child next spring, started Elevate Your Sole following a career at sea, working as a senior navigation officer on offshore dive ships. He launched the business online, attracting international customers from USA to New Zealand, as well as opening shops in Prestatyn and Rhos-on-Sea, and now employs four people.