Gently used shoes may seem like unusual donation items, but for the Fortune Academy at 5626 Lawton Loop E. Dr., the Shoe Drive Fundraiser will turn donated shoes into cash for the school now through Jan. 1.
The Fortune Academy specializes in teaching children with learning disabilities, such as dyslexia and language processing disorders, according to Staci Koehler, events and fundraising manager at the Fortune Academy.
“The kids come because the families don’t know where else to go,” Koehler said. “Big public schools can pass over these kids as they fall through the cracks. Families are down when they come to us, and then they get to see their kids thrive.”
This year is the first for the Shoe Drive Fundraiser at the Fortune Academy.
“When COVID hit in the spring of 2020, it was a struggle to get parents in (the school) to organize any events,” Koehler said. “We didn’t have the resources to do this. We were doing everything virtually for fundraising, so in-person donations were out of the question.”
The fundraiser is hosted by an Orlando-based for-profit organization called Funds2Orgs, according to Koehler.
“(Funds2Orgs) does these types of fundraisers all over the world,” Koehler said. “We collect shoes in good condition, and we get paid 50 cents per pound. They provide the shoes to micro entrepreneurs internationally that work with groups to rebuild the shoes to sell in their communities.”
The Fortune Academy typically holds an in-person gala each year to raise money for the school. In the past, the event included a silent auction, raffles and entertainment. However, the pandemic forced the school to conduct online events in place of the annual gala.
“We held two online galas during 2020 and 2021 as a celebration at the end of the year,” Koehler said. “One was a streaming auction event in May 2020. It was really a struggle to turn everything into a virtual event, but we raised $125 during that event. In 2021, we held an online trivia night. That year, we raised $117.”
Koehler said she was amazed the Fortune Academy was able to raise that much during the height of the pandemic years because of the financial toll on schools, businesses and families. After organizing events for much larger schools, Koehler was “blown away” with the amount raised by the school during fundraising events. For the Shoe Drive Fundraiser, she expects similar success.
The school’s fundraising target is to raise $1,000, though Koehler acknowledges the figure is “ambitious.”
“We would love to raise $1,000, but it’s so much work to make that money,” Koehler said. “But you’re doing it for more than the money. It doubles as an opportunity for those less fortunate. We need about 2,500 shoes in order to reach our target fundraising goal.”
Donation boxes for shoes can be found at the Fortunate Academy and the Benjamin Harrison YMCA. For more, visit thefortuneacademy.org.