The Daily Gamecock

Student turns senior project into campus drive

Thesis aims to donate 1,000 pairs of shoes, establish annual event


With deadlines for Honors College senior theses looming, one student is enlisting the generosity of the USC campus to fulfill his project goals.

Fourth-year business student Cullen Clair has organized a campuswide shoe drive for Soles4Souls, a charity that collects and donates new and gently-used shoes of all kinds to people in impoverished and disaster-stricken areas worldwide.

Students can drop off any kind of shoes from March 19-22 in collection boxes located in the Russell House Bookstore, Harper College room 120, Patterson Hall and houses in the Greek Village. Clair hopes to collect around 1,000 pairs of shoes this week.

“Worldwide, there are over 300 million children without shoes,” Clair said. “Unfortunately, because many diseases are contracted through the foot, there are laws which require children to have footwear in order to attend school. As a result millions of children are denied an education.”

Clair’s thesis will be an operation manual detailing the steps he has taken to organize and host a successful drive, which include designing posters and flyers, recruiting help, promoting the drive via email and Facebook and compiling a list of helpful contacts along the way.

“I chose this collection as a part of my thesis because I knew a senior thesis would require a lot of work. I figured that if I was going to put a lot of effort into something, I might as well do something that will benefit others,” Clair said.

In addition to his goal of collecting 1,000 pairs of shoes, Clair also hopes to “find someone willing to take the project on next year.”

“It is my hope that with the help of this manual, the Soles4Souls shoe drive can become an annual event here at USC,” Clair said.

The Nashville-based charity, has distributed more than 17 million pairs of shoes to people in more than 127 countries, including the United States, since 2005, according to the Soles4Souls website. The charity was launched in the aftermath of the Southeast Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina disasters of 2004 and 2005, respectively.

Clair said he first heard about Soles4Souls from his mother, a professional organizer who had noticed the amount of unworn shoes in people’s closets.

“She actually gave me the idea to host a drive at USC,” Clair said. “After going through my closet at home and finding several pairs of shoes that I could afford to part with, I knew this was something I had to do.”

Soles4Souls assists interested organizers like Clair by providing collection boxes and premade posters. Through a partnership with Hunter Matthews of Minute Man Movers, Clair arranged to have the collected shoes shipped at a discounted rate to a warehouse in Gaffney, S.C., from which Soles4Souls will distribute them to an impoverished area.

“If everyone could find just one pair (of shoes) that they would be willing to donate, we can change thousands of lives,” Clair said.