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Teen-led nonprofit donates 550 pairs of new shoes to Central Arizona Shelter Services

Soles 2 Souls is a local, teen-led nonprofit whose founders say started with a single pair of shoes three years ago. They recently partnered with the Arizona Lottery and Famous Footwear to donate 550 pairs of shoes to Central Arizona Shelter Services.

Arizona’s first Chief Heat Officer Dr. Eugene Livar was appointed earlier this year. With pavement temperatures reaching over 100 degrees, he said shoes are a critical yet often overlooked layer of protection.

“This kind of access to resources is essential to prevent heat-related deaths among the homeless– unhoused in our community members,” said Livar.

Whitney Thistle, chief development officer at CASS, said some people go months without access to a vehicle, with traveling on foot being their only reliable option.

“More than 600 individuals died last year of heat related deaths who were experiencing homelessness,” said Thistle. “And every night, we serve about 600 individuals who are going to be so excited to receive these.”

Soles 2 Souls co-founder Jake Krotonsky said it’s especially important to provide high quality shoes that can stand up to the extra wear and tear.

“We never thought that we would get to this point of being able to deliver shoes in this number, but we’re very excited to be here,” he said. “Growing up, shoes were so important to me. Being able to go to school with a new pair of shoes and get the newest pair of Jordans was always a really exciting feeling to me. So being able to share some of that with a lot of these people who maybe haven’t had a new pair of shoes in a long time is very fulfilling.”

Krotonsky said they look forward to expanding their partnership with CASS, especially ahead of summer heat that will make protection from the hot pavement more important than ever.

Kirsten Dorman is a field correspondent at KJZZ. Born and raised in New Jersey, Dorman fell in love with audio storytelling as a freshman at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 2019.