Pop up shoe charity going strong at Gate River Run

shoes-jax.com is in its 15th year of giving donated shoes to local homeless

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – For the last 15 years Carey Hepler and his family have dedicated only three days out of their year for charity.

That is all that they need.

The pop-up charity has been located just outside of the runners expo in the Jacksonville Fairgrounds since 2003 where he and his family accept used running shoes to give to local homeless shelters.  Hepler got the idea from a running magazine years ago and figured that the concept would work perfectly with the River Run each year.

"This young girl had done this in California and I thought that's a great idea," said Hepler.  "I always have too many shoes and so, Doug Alred from First Place Sports gave us the space and we got about 350 pairs of shoes the first year and it has just kind of grown organically throughout the years."

Now a days the Heplers get between 1,000 and 1,200 pairs of shoes and have now started to accept t-shirts as well.  In 2017, they had 684 pounds of shirts donated.  According to Hepler, both are in demand at local homeless shelters across the First Coast, but the shoes are the first thing that go.

"In talking to the local shelters, they will tell you that shoes are like gold.  It is the first thing that they run out of and they love it when we come by.  So after the race on Saturday we bag everything up and drive over to the St. Francis soup kitchen and they have a bunch of guys waiting for us.  We unload half there and the other half at the downtown ecumenical society."

If you have shoes to donate, you have until after the race on Saturday to drop them off.  For more information visit their facebook page or go to shoes-jax.com.