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Gainesville man collects 150 pairs of shoes for shelter
Enlists others to donate footwear, clothing
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Max Wilson dropped off pairs of shoes Thursday night at the Good News at Noon shelter in Gainesville. Wilson also donated around 90 pairs to the organization on Wednesday. - photo by HAILEY VAN PARYS

Max Wilson saw a need and he filled it.

The Gainesville man helped donate over 150 pairs of shoes to the Good News at Noon shelter.

He dropped off the majority of them by Wednesday, but donated more Thursday evening and has even more to bring in by the end of the week.

By the time the 21-year-old was ready to bring more on Thursday, he said the organization was already starting to pass out the shoes to the needy.

Wilson first saw the need when he volunteered at the organization with his mother Teresa Wilson on Thanksgiving.

“When he came home from school, he had contacted Good News about volunteering,” Teresa said. She had heard of the shelter’s medical involvement before, but didn’t know about the meals, shoes and clothes they gave out.

Both were charged with sorting and handing out donated shoes and clothing that day, helping people find sizes that fit them.

“We realized that a lot of men were in search of size 12 or 13 that we had few of,” Max said.

Teresa said helping them out was rewarding, but not being able to find shoes that fit was something that bothered both of them.

“It was disheartening, there wasn’t a lot to choose from,” Teresa said.

Both Wilsons went home, dug through their closets and donated what they didn’t frequently use.

Seeing her son volunteer his time and put together a shoe drive was an inspiring experience for Teresa.

“I loved watching him … giving back,” she said. “I told him I was just so proud of him.”

Max immediately thought of his high school tennis coach John McFall, who wore that size and might have some on hand. McFall, who teaches at West Hall High School, was also able to donate about 7 or 8 pairs of shoes.

Inspired by his success, Max wanted to help out even more. He even offered to drive an hour outside of Gainesville to pick up any shoes.

“Later we decided to start a drive to see if we could get a decent amount by the time Good News at Noon did their Christmas drive and it just kind of blew up from there,” Max said.

The drive started with Max’s post on Facebook pleading for his followers to donate any type of shoe, any size for any genders or ages, to his cause.

Over the last few weeks, old friends and people he hardly knew reached out to donate.

Sunny Xayavongsa, a high school classmate of Max’s, saw the shoe drive post and reached out to him.

“I hadn’t talked to him since high school,” she said.

She had a lot of her own shoes to donate, as well as her son’s that he didn’t wear anymore, which were sitting in a tub.

The company for which she worked was looking for a good cause to which to contribute for their holiday party that year, so the timing was perfect.

“I asked my co-workers to bring in what they could to help out,” Xayavongsa said.

She’s not sure exactly how many shoes were donated by the other employees of Apollo First Aid in Norcross, but at least three big boxes worth.

Around 50 or 60 pair, she would estimate, of any and every type of shoe including a couple size 12 or 13 men’s shoes.

Teresa was also able to gather the support of her co-workers at Northeast Georgia Medical Center, where she has worked for 30 years. She put out a memo to the people she worked with and told them about her Thanksgiving experience.

“Everybody wanted to get involved,” she said. “Everybody was very generous.”

One person with whom she worked, who was on vacation at the time, stopped during their time off to donate four bags of shoes and clothing.

Around 15 people from the staff of the hospital donated shoes to the cause.

By the time they were ready to pack everything up to take the donations to the center, the goods were lining the walls of the Wilson’s dining room and hallways.

“It was funny to see,” Teresa said.

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