Most of us take for granted that we’ll always have the basic necessities of life- food, clean water, shelter, and so forth. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case for everyone. Even here in the United States, people can fall on hard times due to individual circumstances or because of more widespread events like natural disasters.

Fortunately, there are a number of charity organizations that do what they can to help. Some are broad-based, helping with things like medical care, food, rebuilding infrastructure after natural disasters and other major relief efforts. Some of these charities are very tightly focused, providing one single type of item that can dramatically improve the quality of someone’s life.

Several charities focus on shoes. There are several ways this can help. First, providing shoes for people that don’t have any either in the United States or abroad. This is pretty self-explanatory. Providing a new pair of shoes to school-children, people in areas of profound poverty, or entire populations affected by natural disasters, hurricanes, or earthquakes can have a dramatic effect on the health and well-being of those people. Shoes that Fit is an example of a company that matches donor companies with local organizations in need of shoes for their communities. Recently, for example, they helped the Chris Paul Foundation to provide new shoes for every student at the Cook Elementary School in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Another way that some charities seek to help the disadvantaged is by supporting microbusinesses that resell lightly used shoes and clothing to generate family income and rise out of poverty. Soles 4 Shoes is an example of this kind of charity. They accept donations of used, lightly worn shoes and resell them to local microbusinesses in poverty-stricken areas to help provide economic opportunity to those communities. They also donate new shoes that they receive directly to those in need of shoes.

According to Soles 4 Shoes, Americans throw away more than 68 pounds of shoes and textiles every year, much of it in still in usable condition. Ordinarily, this material ends up in landfills, but by donating it to those in need either through local charities in your neighborhood or larger organizations, this material gets recycled and used again by people who are very thankful to receive it.

The donation of new or resoled and reconditioned shoes can mean that children have proper footwear to walk to school, or that adults have shoes to prevent health problems such as hookworm, threadworm, and podoconiosis, medical conditions associated with lack of footwear in unsanitary conditions.