The youth group at a local church is challenging the community to help it collect new and lightly-warn shoes to benefit earthquake victims in Haiti.

Beginning Sunday, middle school students in the 4Twelve and Girl Talk classes at First Baptist Church of Houston will be collecting shoes to assist Project Haiti. The youth group is partnering with Soles4Souls, a Nashville-based organization that distributes both new and used shoes worldwide.

Collection boxes will be set up at the church for shoe donations during February. Jeff McNiell, one of the youth leaders, will also accept shoes inside his office at the Houston Herald.

Soles4Souls estimates that 300 million pairs of shoes were thrown away last year, while the same number of children around the world have never owned a pair of shoes. It is estimated that Americans have 1.5 billion pairs of unused shoes lying in their closets. The charity can use each and every one of these pairs to make a tangible difference in someone’s life. Soles4Souls has distributed more than 4.3 million pairs (currently donating one pair every 17 seconds) to people in more than 125 countries, including Honduras, Uganda, Romania and the United States.

McNiell said the youth at First Baptist will be shoeless during worship services in February to raise awareness for the drive. For more information or to donate, contact him at 417-260-4343 or

FACEBOOK PAGE: Soles4Souls shoe drive to benefit Haiti