Free Your Footwear fits families

Students and friends redistribute shoes to those in need

Sarah Haver
Boys from the Children’s Village in Modjadjiskloof, in the Limpopo province of Africa holding up donations from Free Your Footwear.

Isaac Cosby was sitting with a friend one day when he came to a realization. He realized that while he had a lot of shoes he never wore anymore, there were many people in the world forced to go barefoot, despite their living conditions and extreme need for shoes.

“People in certain parts of the world don’t have shoes at all, they just basically go barefoot,” Cosby said. “We noticed we had a lot and other people didn’t have any.”

Cosby started off small-scale in August 2016, collecting unused shoes from friends, cleaning them and attempting to reach out to people who needed them. He and his friends, in cooperation with his church, expanded their efforts by reaching out to the community through local drives and social media. Cosby decided to make his organization official and, thus, Free Your Footwear was started.

Free Your Footwear is a charity organization centrally located in South Charleston and is a branch of Bridge Ministries, Inc. The organization’s goal is to cooperate with local, domestic and international organizations to collect lightly used and new footwear to re-distribute to in-need families and individuals around the world. Cosby says he aims to extend his help as far as possible and to as many in-need people as possible.

To help extend his reach to college campuses, Free Your Footwear linked up with the Marshall University Hackers for Charity to collect shoes at the Memorial Student Center Jan. 3.

MU Hackers for Charity is a branch of Hackers for Charity International, created by former professional hacker turned philanthropist Johnny Long. They aim to put the advanced computer and technological skills of its members to good use, raising money to assist Hackers for Charity International as well as people in the Huntington community.

Though they had a table set up in the lobby, Cosby decided to go a step further, communicating and engaging himself with passing students. He handed out cards and started conversations with people to give them a sense of what his charity organization is all about.

Cosby has also worked with other West Virginia based organizations, such as the Open Arms Foundation located in Cross Lanes. The Open Arms Foundation reaches out to and aids poverty-stricken and abandoned children in foreign countries that offer little to no assistance. Just this month, Free Your Footwear collaborated with Open Arms Foundation and shipped shoes to children internationally.

“Free Your Footwear has helped provide shoes for children who live on the streets of Medellin, Colombia,” said Michael Perrow, project coordinator and communications liaison at Open Arms Foundation. “Also, they have provided shoes for refugees who are young girls ages 7-15 in Medellin that have escaped the armed conflict in the country’s interior.”

As well as helping others by providing shoes, Cosby and his organization also offer up guidance, mentoring and opportunities for younger people to get involved with helping others in need. Young boys from Bridge Ministries often help Cosby clean and package the shoes donated to Free Your Footwear.

Cosby says he is proud of the work his organization has been able to accomplish so far and has no plans of slowing down his efforts any time soon as he continues to build connections with local and national organizations and provide shoes to those who need his assistance.

“We’ve sent over 400 pairs to different parts of the world: South Africa, Columbia, Haiti,” Cosby said. “So it’s been good.”

Cosby said he hopes to return to Marshall University in the future.

Ryan Murphy can be contacted at [email protected]