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Format: 04/18/2014
Format: 04/18/2014

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Program Started By Pittsburgh Teens, AGH Doctor Expands Annual Thanksgiving Mission for Homeless to More than 40 States

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

“Our Hearts to Your Soles” Initiative Offers Shoes, Socks, Foot Care and Other Health Screenings 

PITTSBURGH – “Our Hearts to Your Soles,” a nonprofit group started four years ago by the teenage children of Stephen Conti, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon at Pittsburgh’s Allegheny General Hospital (AGH), is expanding its mission on behalf of the nation’s homeless this Thanksgiving by partnering with groups in more than 40 states to provide shoes, socks, foot care and other vital health screenings.

Working alongside Catholic Charities in Pittsburgh, on Nov. 25, “Our Hearts to Your Soles” will offer free, high-quality Red Wing shoes and foot health screenings to the area’s homeless men in an event from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Catholic Charities, 212 Ninth Street., downtown Pittsburgh. From 400 to 500 people are expected to attend.

Nationwide, shoes will be distributed in 40 sites to an estimated 8,000 men, double last year’s number. An estimated 400 volunteers will come together to make this Thanksgiving mission happen. National sites include St. Stephen’s shelter in Minneapolis, Bethesda Mission in Harrisburg, Franciscan House in Chicago and Union Gospel Mission in Dallas.

“I am very proud that this program has grown so significantly and touched so many lives,” Dr. Conti said. “Ministering to this little-known need makes life a bit easier for our neediest neighbors.”

This year, for the first time, the program will offer a wider variety of health screenings courtesy of AGH as well as free socks thanks to the efforts of Dr. Conti’s son Christopher, who sold bookmarks to raise the needed funds to provide socks.

In addition, the Stroke Center at AGH will offer free stroke education and blood pressure screenings, and the AGH pharmacy will offer a “brown bag” event in which individuals can bring in all their medications for review and ask questions.

The Dental Clinic at AGH is providing toothbrushes and toothpaste and the Dietary Department will provide food and beverages for the event.

Dr. Conti’s son Matt formed “Our Hearts to Your Soles” after seeing firsthand the consequences of wearing improper footwear while volunteering at the AGH Wound Center. Dr. Conti had traditionally opened his office to homeless men for foot screenings on the day before Thanksgiving.

Matt wanted to take his father’s Thanksgiving efforts a step further, and so created a business plan and began raising money and seeking shoe donations. At the group’s first event, at the Light of Life Ministries on the North Side, 50 men left with a new pair of shoes. Dr. Conti also recruited physicians who trimmed toenails and calluses, and he coordinated a similar event later that year with Harrisburg-based physicians. A second event in 2007 provided shoes for all the men staying in the Light of Life shelter on that night.

Laura Conti, Dr. Conti’s daughter, made the effort even bigger by obtaining nonprofit status for “Our Hearts to Your Soles” and partnering with a Nashville-based charity, “Soles4Souls” to expand the effort to 40 states.

On Thanksgiving 2008, the Contis’ group, “Our Hearts to Your Soles,” partnered with “Soles4Souls” to distribute shoes to 4,000 homeless men around the country. Despite its national impact, the group remains rooted in the Pittsburgh community and spent Thanksgiving 2008 not only distributing shoes and socks to 200 men in downtown Pittsburgh but caring for their foot sores, wounds and calluses.

More information is available at www.heartstosoles.com

 

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