Lindsay Sobel started her charity Shoes for Souls after seeing the widespread homelessness in Los Angeles.
When Lindsay Sobel was 12 years old, she attended a basketball game at LA's Staples Center arena and was struck by the high levels of homelessness in the area. “I noticed a lot of them were in really awful living conditions, no way any person should have to live. On top of that, I noticed a lot of them did not even have shoes on," she recalls. "At 12 years old, I was like, 'Wow, people don’t have shoes?’ It kind of put things into perspective for me." This experience started the now 17-year-old on a journey that has led her to donate over 30,000 pairs of shoes to people in need throughout Southern California — an incredible accomplishment that she says "makes me full of joy because of the fact that I’m able to help people out.”
After her experience at the basketball game, Lindsay was cleaning out her closet when she realized that she had a lot of shoes she never wore. “Oh my goodness, I haven’t worn half of these (shoes),” she recalls thinking. “Donating shoes would be a great way to give back to the community.” Inspired, Lindsay decided to start collecting new and gently worn shoes as part of her Bat Mitzvah project in 2016. She formed a charity called Shoes for Souls and began reaching out to friends and classmates about donating shoes. She also organized a week-long school drive at a summer day camp where campers competed with one another to see who could donate more shoes. Lindsay quickly collected thousands of shoes which she donated to local homeless shelters and was named 2017 Chatsworth Youth of the Year.
Now a high school junior, Lindsay has continued collecting tens of thousands of shoes over the past several years, but when the coronavirus pandemic struck, collecting donations got harder — even though she knew there were more people in need than ever. She used Nextdoor, the social networking app for neighborhoods, to coordinate with her school, her volleyball team, and the wider community to arrange contact-free pickup for shoe donations. When two Los Angeles City Council members reached out to ask her if she could provide more shoes, she was ready; within weeks, she was able to donate over 4,000 pairs. "I was so honored they thought of me to help," she says. "It was really great being able to see my work pay off."
While Lindsay wants to get as many shoes on feet as possible, she says she's careful to make sure they're in good condition. "My motto is, if you would wear it, I’ll accept it," she declares. "I want to try to give the best experience to all the people. I don’t want to give them a pair of shoes that are beaten down or worn down. I don’t want them to think that’s their self-worth." Lindsay says that Shoes for Souls has given her new respect for the value of a good pair of footwear. "You know a fresh, new pair of shoes can really brighten someone’s day, brighten their attitude and their outlook on life," she observes. "I wanted to help as many people as possible."
If you'd like to donate new or gently worn shoes shoes in the LA area, you can sign up to arrange a pick-up on the Shoes for Souls website.
Books About Mighty Girls Tackling Poverty and Hardship
Delly is a gifted young artist, but her family is struggling to get by; she often draws on scraps, and she doesn't even have a pair of shoes to wear. Then her teacher announces the school will hold a Shoebox Social to raise money for new art materials: each student will decorate a shoebox, which will be auctioned off. Knowing that Daddy needs new tires for his truck, Delly is shocked when he buys her a gorgeous pair of orange shoes for the social... and heartbroken when bullies at school trample and scuff them. But when she uses her homemade paints to cover the damage, embellishing her shoes with the same vibrant at on her shoebox, Delly shows that being true to yourself is more valuable than any money. This poignant and powerful story is a reminder of how special a simple pair of shoes can be.
It's fall in Tennessee, and young Dolly Parton, long before her days as a country music legend, has no coat to wear. Her family can't afford to buy one, but her mother does have a box of rags that was given to the family, so she carefully sews the scraps together, telling Dolly the Biblical story of Joseph's coat of many colors and hoping it brings her daughter good fortune too. But when she wears it to school, her classmates laugh despite all her efforts to explain the value of the coat. Still, she wears it proudly, remembering the love "my momma sewed in every stitch." This uplifting picture book telling Dolly's story, paired with illustrations by Brooke Boynton-Hughes, conveys a powerful message of optimism and resilience in the face of hardship.
Best friends Sofia and Maddi live in the same neighborhood and attend the same school, but when Sofia looks for a snack in Maddi's fridge one day, she is shocked to discover that her friend Maddi spends many of her days hungry. Maddi makes Sofia promise not to tell, but it's hard for Sofia to enjoy all the good food on her own family's table when she knows Maddi's family has none. It turns out, sometimes the kindest thing to do is to break a promise. This book about food insecurity provides a model for empathetic and compassionate friendship with a person in need.
Chloe and her friends won’t play with Maya, who wears hand-me-down clothes and plays with old toys; eventually, Maya stops asking, and soon after, Maya moves away. But when Chloe’s teacher invites her students to think about how small kindnesses might affect the world in unexpected ways, Chloe has a revelation — she can’t think of a single time that she was kind to Maya, and now that Maya is gone, the opportunity to offer her even a small kindness is gone forever. However, the book also ends with a positive implication: if everyone resolves to extend kindness to everyone they meet, the ripples will extend around the world.
Activism can sometimes seem overwhelming — but there are problems large and small that kids can tackle every day! In this book, Chelsea Clinton addresses five key concepts — health, hunger, climate change, endangered species, and bullying — and shows kids how to start solving them, either individually, locally, or globally. Each chapter ends with a "Start Now!" bullet list, providing suggestions for young would-be activists to take first steps towards big changes. Kids will particularly love the photographs of real kids, just like them, who have started leading the way for people around them.
Anyone can make the world a better place — whether you're helping a few people in your school or tackling a global issue! If your Mighty Girl wants to make a difference, but doesn't know where to start, this book from the American Girl Library will help. Girls will identify their talents and skills, and figure out which causes matter the most to them. Then, they'll see how they can change things for the better, whether it's welcoming a lonely classmate, writing letters asking for change, or starting a fundraiser. This empowering and inspiring book will help girls recognize their power to make the world a better place.
Piper's life is turned upside down when her family moves into a shelter in a whole new city. She misses her house, her friends, and her privacy — and she hates being labeled the homeless girl at her new school. But the shelter also brings new friendships with other girls in the shelter's Firefly Girls troop and with a sweet street dog owned by an elderly homeless woman named Jewel, who refuses to move into the shelter because she can't bring her beloved Baby. After Jewel is hospitalized and Baby is sent to an animal shelter, Piper decides to rally her new Firefly friends and figure out a way to make sure that Jewel and Baby can stay together and move off the streets for good. Told in alternating perspectives, this heartfelt story explores the many faces of homelessness while speaking to the importance of hope, the power of story, and the true meaning of home.
When a teen has an idea for a way to change the world, she may not know what to do to make it a reality. This book will guide her through it, step by step! Individual chapters cover everything from refining your idea to fundraising to creating a business plan, and even discuss what to do when you're ready to move on, whether you're closing down your project or handing it off to another person. Changing the world may not be easy, but with this book, she'll know where to start.
14-year-old Layla is an aspiring scientist who's desperate for a way out of her home situation. Her mother is unstable and neglectful, so she's mostly in charge of her 6-year-old brother Andy; they live in an apartment that's mold-ridden and filthy; and she's often bullied when she can't clean her clothes or get basic hygiene supplies. When Child Protective Services removes Andy from their home, Layla takes a bold step: she films her apartment for a school project about biomes — capturing all the fungus, mold, and worse on the walls, in the dresser drawers, and even in the dead fridge — and posts it online. Revealing the truth is humiliating, but also liberating: for the first time, everyone knows what she struggles with every single day. This powerful story about neglect and the hidden poverty that surrounds us is a reminder of the courage many teens need just to survive.
Money conversations can also provide a great opportunity to communicate family values about money and giving. This insightful parenting book shows how families of all income levels can talk with kids about money issues, not only to teach them about financial responsibility, but also to show them how the family's choices allow them to give to their community. Author Ron Lieber explores topics ranging from the Tooth Fairy to birthday parties to college tuition, encouraging parents to foster less materialism and more generosity; his examination of the attitudes we communicate to kids about money will help parents teach that money is a tool, not a goal, and that the reward comes from how you use it.
Studies show that teens are 40% less empathetic today than they were thirty years ago – a trend that hurts both kids and society as a whole. In fact, self-focused behavior can hurt academic performance, lead to increases in bullying behavior, and reduce kids’ resilience when things go wrong. This thoughtful parenting book explores nine research-based habits to build kids’ empathy. From identifying and controlling their emotions to thinking about "us" not "them", these strategies can be used daily to encourage kids to see the world from the perspectives of other people around them, reducing rudeness and bullying and setting them up for a lifetime of positive relationships.