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Format: 04/16/2014
Format: 04/16/2014

News

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Charity gives out shoes, socks and foot care

Monday, November 30th, 2009

By Timothy McNulty

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Since a fire destroyed his apartment building and left him homeless nearly three weeks ago, Grant Morrison has been wearing a neighbor's work boots, worried about the day when the neighbor will ask for them back. When he heard yesterday about a Downtown program that issues new shoes to the homeless, he walked all the way from Oakland to get a pair.

"My grandmother says, 'Every journey starts with one step.' These shoes are giving me the first step," said Mr. Morrison, 43.

The "Our Hearts to Your Soles" charity had its first event in early 2006, providing free foot care and shoes to about 50 men at the Light of Life Rescue Mission on the North Side. It has since spread nationwide, issuing 4,000 shoes and boots at Thanksgiving-eve events last year and doubling that during this year's events -- issuing an estimated 8,000 pairs of shoes at 43 sites nationwide, all staffed by orthopedic surgeons and other foot and health experts.

The charity was started by then-North Allegheny High School student Matt Conti five years ago after volunteering at Allegheny General Hospital -- where his father, Stephen Conti, is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in feet, ankles and lower extremities -- and seeing the foot problems that commonly plagued homeless men that came to the hospital.

Dr. Conti had traditionally opened his office for free foot care the day before Thanksgiving and it became a family affair. Matt Conti filed the paperwork to create the nonprofit in 2004. His sister Laura, 18, a freshman at Notre Dame, worked with a Nashville shoe charity to do outreach to other foot specialists nationwide to expand the program.

Younger brother Chris, 16, a North Allegheny junior, started a new charity called "Socks2Soles" to raise money for new socks.

In the first year the family largely pulled it off with the help of friends at Colaizzi Pedorthic Center in Bellevue and Hanger Orthopedics Group in the South Side, as well as Dr. Conti's colleagues at AGH. These days those groups still help, but so does Catholic Charities, which became a partner last year.

By reaching out to four homeless agencies affiliated with Catholic Charities and another five around the area, it issued about 500 pairs of Red Wing shoes and boots Downtown yesterday, up from 200 pairs last year.

 

To read more, visit the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette web site.
 

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