When Becca and Steve Bertok’s good friend Brian was stationed in Afghanistan, one of the things that bothered him most was all of the barefooted children roaming the streets of Kabul in freezing weather. “As Brian said, ‘These aren’t the people we’re fighting.’ The United States is there to help them, but the poverty is just staggering,” says Becca.
She and Steve then did some brainstorming and early in the summer of 2014 decided to organize a shoe drive to help with the problem — Shoes for Souls was born. Having grown up as an army-brat herself, Becca called the SC National Guard to ask for shipping suggestions and request space on supply flights. They gathered gently used shoes, from children’s sizes to adult, and sent the first of what turned into five shipments to Brian’s base in Kabul for the local population. Brian then gave the shoes to one of his Afghani colleagues, Noor, who walked around Kabul to distribute the shoes to the town’s most needy.
“My front room looked like a shoe warehouse for a few weeks!” laughs Becca. “But my favorite moment was receiving photos of Brian and Noor holding some of the boxes and with the recipients. I have some beautiful photographs of Kabul residents, children and adults, each holding the shoes they received.”
Brian is currently stationed in Saudi Arabia where the conditions are not stable enough to send packages without the concern of their being confiscated, but the Bertoks are hopeful that things will change. Current donations are taken to Transitions or the Oliver Gospel Mission.
“The thing I would like people to know most about Shoes for Souls is how simple it is to organize a benefit drive of any kind to help people who are struggling,” says Becca. “It doesn’t take a lot of time to collect the items to donate, there’s no cost involved, and it doesn’t take a lot of time to arrange the distribution of gifts directly to people who need them the most. That’s the beauty — anyone can organize something like this.”