Bellmore couple host holiday shoe drive out of their garage
Ed and Janice Garfinkel (pictured), a retired couple who live in Bellmore, are collecting vital footwear for those in need. As of the first Tuesday of the new year, the Garfinkels had collected more than 1,700 pairs of new, gently worn and used shoes.
The drive has been so successful that they may run out of space in their garage by the Jan. 27 deadline, said Ed, 66.
“We have 74 bags [of shoes] right now, and it’s still going to the end of January,” added Janice, 64.
The collection effort will help raise funds for the National Alliance on Mental Illness’s Queens/Nassau branch, for which the Garfinkels serve as board members. NAMI is a nonprofit that offers support, education and advocacy for those suffering from mental illnesses, according to its website.
While the services NAMI offers are free, fundraising came up short last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s been a hard year for everyone, obviously,” Ed said. “Our biggest fundraiser is a walk on Jones Beach, but we couldn’t get that done. We had a virtual walk, but it didn’t bring in nearly the funds we usually get.”
The Garfinkels became involved in NAMI when their daughter was diagnosed with a mental illness. “We didn’t know what to do,” Janice said. “We found NAMI, and it opened up a whole new world to us . . . There were people going through the same thing she was going through. It was a community of people that were struggling with mental health.”
“We pushed the [shoe drive] idea to the board, and my wife took the idea and ran with it,” Ed said. “I was questioning whether we’d be able to get so many pairs of shoes — I thought that was crazy, but it looks like we’re getting there.”
The drive is being held in coordination with Funds2Orgs, an Orlando-based organization that collects shoe donations in exchange for money. The money provided in exchange for the shoes helps support organizations like NAMI, and Funds-2Orgs then distributes the footwear overseas to poverty-stricken areas such as Bolivia, Ecuador and Haiti.
After the Jan. 27 end date, trucks from Funds2Orgs will pick up the filled bags. Many of the donations, Ed said, were personally picked up by the Garfinkels as far out as Brooklyn and Queens.
“We’re very surprised at how the community banded together to help this cause,” Janice said.
To make a shoe donation, contact the Garfinkels by email at email@example.com or by phone at (516) 343-6761.