A Columbia shoe store gives old shoes new life

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COLUMBIA - Dryer’s Shoe Store is one of Columbia's oldest downtown retailers, and it is running a shoe drive to encourage recycling and provide shoes for needy children. It ends Tuesday, but it's not to late to make donations.

Justin Riley, the owner of family business, said everyone from the community is welcome to drop off their used but serviceable shoes at the store at North Ninth Street until closing time Tuesday. After that, shoes can be taken directly to The Wardrobe thrift store at 715 Park Ave.

The Wardrobe will sell the shoes and use the proceeds to donate new shoes to children in need.

In addition to the charitable aspect of the shoe drive, there is also an environmental benefit.

“We see a lot of people come in with shoes that are barely used or they don’t fit right or they just don’t like them and rather than throw them in the trash, it’s just a good idea to recycle them and let someone who really needs them to use them,” Riley said.

Most of used footwear and other textiles are able to be reused or recycled, however, some 85 percent of them are thrown away and end up in landfills every year in the United States, according to the Council for Textile Recycling.

Riley said there’s always a need for recycling in the community and he hoped the shoe drive could help Columbia move forward with it.

Cynthia Mitchell, the manager of Solid Waste Utility of the City of Columbia, said the textile recycling in Columbia largely relies on individual corporations as it doesn’t have a city-level service to deal with this type of recycling.

“We do not handle that from the city but we refer them to other services who can and do want that materials,” Mitchell.

She said the city started to work on recycling in 1990s but it hasn’t begun to take measures in clothing, footwear and other textile recycling.

“There’s just nothing that’ve ever been looked into from I guess the classic recycling industry as far as dealing with materials that can then be processed into another product,” Mitchell said.

She said the demand for textile recycling has been there last few years and several companies in the community are working in that direction.

Dryer's has collected dozens of pairs of shoes since the shoe drive started in the beginning of May.

Most of shoes are in great condition, some are almost brand new.

“The drive goes to the end of month and as soon as we’re done, we’re gonna take them to The Wardrobe, which will be giving out to people who really need them,” Riley said.

The Wardrobe is a non-profit organization located at Park Avenue.

The corporation also offers one of the drop-off services for clothing and other textile recycling in Columbia, alongside with other organizations like Bookslick Industries/Unlimited Opportunities, Goodwill, The Salvation Army and Upscale Resale.

The Wardrobe will also take cash donations as part of its efforts to give shoes to children.