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Recycled sneakers find new homes in Hampton Roads thanks to Running ETC

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Posted at 7:33 PM, Apr 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-09 09:24:00-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - If you have done any spring cleaning lately you may have found some old sneakers lying around, but don't toss them in the trash.

Running ETC, with locations in Virginia Beach and Norfolk, will recycle them for you.

"What's worn out for us as runners is a blessing for someone that doesn't have footwear," said Michael Robinson.

Michael Robinson owns Running ETC and said back in the 1980s he had the idea to recycle old trainers.

"We were trying to get rid of our shoes that we didn't need, but felt they were still usable for someone who needed some footwear," he said. "Word kind of spread to the local high schools and then coaches starting coming and getting shoes."

Free brand name shoes were being given to kids who otherwise wouldn't have been able to afford them.

Robinson recalls a story that a coach from Newport News once told him.

He said, "There was a pair of Nike Air Max's [in the bin] and [a student] said, 'Coach, all I have to do is run with you and you will give me these Air Max?' And he said yeah, so she ended up running four years, got a college scholarship, and he said it all started with the shoes."

Fulfilling further need, Running ETC has also teamed up with local organizations, PiN Ministries and Ghent Area Ministry, that help those without a home.

Bill Hart oversees the men's clothing and shoes at PiN Ministries, which is located in Virginia Beach.

"They come in there I see them wear the shoes [that] are so tight they are hurting. I see them in shoes that are totally worn out," Hart said.

So Hart comes to the store twice a week, like he has for years, to pick up the hand-me-down sneakers.

"There's always shoes here. Sometimes one or two pairs but other times [there are] a couple boxes," he said. "If you could only see the looks on their face when they get a pair and they stand up and they are comfortable."

He said the ministry keeps records of who receives shoes, and individuals can be eligible to receive a pair every eight weeks. The sizes they need most are nine and below and 12 and up.

Running ETC also donates to the MORE Foundation Group, which is a US based non-profit corporation. MORE stands for Modular Organic Regenerative Environments. Their reforested environments have a very positive economic and climatic impact.

MORE Foundation is 100% funded with recycled athletic shoes. Proceeds regenerate forests and jumpstart small farming co-ops in West Africa and Central America.

Used shoes can be donated at either the Virginia Beach store at 1940 Laskin Road Unit 302 or the Norfolk location at 1707 Colley Avenue. Robinson said if it's after hours, shoes can be left out front in a bag.