NYer of the Week: Andre McDonnell Helps Others in Need Put Their Best Foot Forward
The latest New Yorker of the Week is helping the homeless by giving new life to old shoes, one pair at a time. NY1's John Schiumo filed the following report.
To Andre McDonnell, a pair of shoes mean more than just style. They provide comfort, respect and hope.
He learned that lesson three years ago, when he offered the shoes off his feet to a man he saw walking barefoot.
"He walked away, and he was so, so thankful," McDonnell says. "I felt great. I felt overwhelmed. Ran into my closet the next day. I grabbed a suitcase and went out into Grand Central and Port Authority and just started giving all my sneakers away."
Andre hasn't stopped since. The Brooklyn native founded "It's From The Sole" with a mission to serve those without a home. Carrying bags filled with footwear, Andre and his volunteers hit the streets with one goal: to end the day empty-handed.
"I just want to be able to just give someone something that I love, because it'll bring up their spirits," says volunteer Ruby Lassi. "You know, we all have things in our back closet that we don't use no more, and what's better than giving it forward?"
They head to major transportation hubs across the city at least three times a week. On this day at Penn Station, Andre's gifts were well-received.
"It makes me feel real good, you know, that people out there really care for you, because there's a lot of people that could really use sneakers, you know. It's cold. There's a lot of homeless people out here, even though there's a lot of millionaires in New York City," says Vincent Givens, who received a pair of sneakers. "So it helps a lot. I'm saving money, I don't have to buy none."
Since 2012, "It's From the Sole" has donated 7,000 pairs of shoes to New Yorkers, a feat that comes from the heart.
"They're always doing it 24/7," says volunteer Steven Arias. "It doesn't matter whether it's their day off or not. Andre goes out throughout the city looking for people he can help every day."
"The things that I complain about, the average things, the average day that I complain about, they really don't matter. For everything that you complain about, there are people doing worse than you," McDonnell says. "And we found a way to help. This is our own little way of helping them."
So, for helping others in need put their best foot forward, Andre McDonnell is the latest New Yorker of the Week.
For more information on the organization, visit itsfromthesole.org.