Big change can come in small forms, one of which is eleven-year-old Brooke Cobb from Plano. This month, Brooke watched as the news of Hurricane Harvey unfolded in southeast Texas, and her concern led her to make a decision. When Brooke told her mother, Shannon Cobb, that she wanted to help somehow, Shannon asked how she’d do it.
“I was so hurt by what was on the news,” Brooke said. “But I liked seeing people helping other people, so I told my mom that I wanted to devote my life to helping others, and that the hurricane relief was how I wanted to start.”
The mother and daughter brainstormed ways they could help before deciding on a basic need: shoes. With thousands of people wading through bacteria-filled water and leaving behind most of their valuable possessions to the storm, many fundamental items were lost. It made sense to the Cobbs that shoes would be a reasonable item they could raise money for in a short period of time.
That’s when Brooke and Shannon created their cause, Harvey Soles.
“Initially, Brooke’s goal was to reach 100 shoes,” Shannon said. “And I was expecting more like 30 or 40, so I immediately thought, ‘How can I help her reach this substantial goal?’”
Brooke’s mother began the process by first reaching out to Brooke’s youth minister at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano and putting the cause on the Nextdoor neighborhood site. She then reached out to Brooke’s school principal and worked with her daughter on creating a flyer and video, which she then posted on social media to spread the word.
It worked; the word did spread. When Brooke’s cause reached the ears of Texas-based shoe manufacturer San Antonio Shoemakers (SAS), the campaign almost doubled in size. On her own, Brooke raised enough money to purchase 290 pairs of shoes, so when SAS joined the picture and offered to donate an extra 200 pairs, the total grew to 490.
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“We believe in people in need,” said SAS Project Manager Tyler Remmert. “We’re local, we’re handmade. We have a lot of family who was affected by what happened. It was a very natural fit for us. We thought, here’s what we have. Here’s what we can do.”
Brooke, her mother, and the SAS team met up this month at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano to receive the 200-shoe load from SAS. When Brooke saw the truck load, she became quiet and seemingly observant. When asked how she felt as she stared at the boxes full of loafers, tennis shoes, and other practical styles, she answered, “It feels so good. To actually see it happening feels so good.”
Just last week, the 490-shoe load was officially transported by Prestonwood Church to Houston and donated successfully to those in need. The SAS Comfort and Support team has already fitted and provided thousands of shoes to evacuees in San Antonio, as well as disaster victims in Kingwood, right outside of Houston. Their van will continue to travel to other areas in need.
“We think that Brooke’s thoughtfulness is amazing, and it’s exactly the kind of initiative that we at SAS want to support,” said SAS Team Member Amy Melvin.
Over the coming weeks, the SAS Comfort and Support Team will be organizing additional free shoe opportunities in Texas, with volunteers equipped with life’s necessities including shoes, socks, bags, belts, and t-shirts. Their help also comes with fittings and much-needed organization.
“We strive not to be one of those places that just dumps things on people who are struggling,” Remmert said. “We come in, we unload, we fit whoever we can, we pack up and get out of the way. As smooth as we can make it, we do because we understand that organizationally, people are trying to get things done in disaster areas, and getting a bunch of shoe boxes dumped on you is never a good thing.”
The combined efforts of Brooke and SAS won’t stop there; as Hurricane Harvey and Irma victims increasingly need the same fundamentals, the duo will continue to contribute as they can, with Brooke maintaining her fundraising efforts for the cause. In fact, she recently received another donation of $1000 from Famous Footwear, with which she will buy an estimated 100 more pairs to take to Port Arthur, Texas. There, an elementary school was affected by the hurricane, and she has made it her next goal for relief.
SAS will be posting social media and blog updates regarding their future donation events. Feel free to follow them at SASShoemakers on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (@sasshoemakers). Meanwhile, Brooke’s GoFundMe page is still active and needing contributions.