The youth group at a local church is nearing 1,000 pairs of shoes to send to earthquake victims in Haiti.

Students at First Baptist Church of Houston have bound about 800 pairs of shoes as they complete a shoe drive that began Feb. 1. The group has established a goal of 1,200 shoes by Feb. 28.

First Baptist has partnered with Soles4Souls, a Nashville-based organization that distributes both new and used shoes worldwide. Collection boxes continue to be available at the church. Shoes may also be turned into Jeff McNiell inside his office at the Houston Herald.

“We’ve been overwhelmed by the community’s support and generosity. I believe 1,200 shoes is an achievable goal,” McNiell said. “We’re asking that everyone clean out their closets and consider donating shoes they do not need or wear. When you go shopping, please consider spending a few dollars on the shoe aisle. There are many summer shoes at extremely low clearance prices.”

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