In the unending, constant stream of tragedies, horrors and utter lack of humanity across all segments of society comes a homegrown feel-good story. My client Rikki Mendias is one of the good guys. Like a modern day Johnny Appleseed, Rikki goes around the country planting the seeds of love, and offering hope to people in the form of new or gently used athletic shoes that are given to at risk youth, and homeless people.
Rikki founded the non-profit Hav A Sole as an outgrowth of his own story of a kindness offered, and he continues to pay it forward. Rikki and his mother were in dire straits when he was a young boy. Living in a recovery center, money was tight and new shoes were an indulgence beyond their means at the time. So when a friend of his mother’s offered to buy Rikki new shoes it made an impression that became an obsession. As a sneakerhead Rikki began collecting sneakers, and one day realized that he had a big collection that was doing nothing but gathering dust. He decided to start sharing his wealth by giving it away to those in need and Hav A Sole was born.
Hav-A-Sole accepts both new and gently used shoes from individuals. People’s reasons for donating are as varied as the shoes, some come from children who have outgrown them too quickly, others from an innate desire to do good. The popularity of the donation drives has shown both the human need to be of service, and the profound excesses we have in the west. Hav-A-Sole has outgrown Rikki’s closet, his apartment and a storage unit.
Today Hav A Sole will be distributing shoes to a group of at risk youth with the Police Activities League at 14th and Olympic beginning at 1:30 p.m. This event has been in the works for awhile now in conjunction with the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce as an outreach event. Fifty at-risk youth will be given shoes that are donated by police officers and collected by Hav A Sole.
This is a ‘homecoming’ for Rikki, who as a boywas a basketball player in youth tournaments at the PAL, so this is yet another opportunity for him to give back to our community.
Shoes have been donated from companies and people of all walks of life. A big corporate supporter of the Hav-A-Sole mission is Nike, who continues their support today with contributions of shoes and the assistance of Gabriela Arvizu who is the Community Impact Manager in Los Angeles for Nike. Allison Halfhill from NiceKicks.com helped out with a call to their Instagram feed for donations and awareness and will be there to help out.
It’s not just the big guys that are recognizing the value of community involvement, local casting company Cathi Carlton Casting with offices in Ocean Park has been a big supporter and put out the call for donations on her social media that are being distributed today. Polaris Teen Center is going to be on site providing lunch. They see the value in our community working together, police and public, rich and poor, white, black, Hispanic, Asian, all of us, one people trying to get through this thing called life.
Other social advocacy groups are joining Hav A Sole because they see how the effort to do good is more effective when we all pull together. Revolt of the Youth is an initiative started Cordell Broadus, the athlete/model son of Snoop Dogg who is helping with the distribution of shoes. Last month they helped Hav A Sole distribute shoes to about 100 at risk kids in partnership with the Love Foundation at Hollywood Recreation Center.
In June, Hav A Sole partnered with U.S. Vets, Inc. Long Beach Chapter, for their 5k/10k fundraiser run for a new handicapped accessible van. Forty homeless vets were given running shoes so they could participate in the run.
The screaming headlines and the shocking images of the last few weeks are an ever present reminder of the destructive capacity we have. It’s nice to have some counterbalancing efforts made to remind us that there is a strong community around us. That we have not lost all humanity. That we can Hav A Sole.
David Pisarra is a Los Angeles divorce and child custody lawyer specializing in fathers’ and men’s rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. Reach him at email@example.com or 310-664-9969. You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra.