Zachary Miller is like every other 14-year-old. He enjoys playing video games with his brother, he likes sports and he likes hanging out with his friends.
Unlike every other 14-year-old, he has collected more than 27,000 pairs of shoes for charity. And he’s not even close to being done.
Zachary has organized another shoe drive on Sunday, May 15 from 9 a.m. to noon at Morris Park in Philadelphia. He has set a goal to collect at least 500 pairs of new and gently used shoes.
Zachary has a more distant goal of 50,000 pairs of shoes.
The shoe drive will be part of Love Your Park Week, a Philadelphia volunteer initiative to clean up and maintain local parks. The shoe collection area will be set up near the red tool shed in the Royal Gardens section of Morris Park at 926 N. 68th St.
“I need shoes every day for all types of things. A pair of shoes can change someone’s life,” Zachary said.
He urges people to think about the less fortunate and emphasizes that donating a little bit can go a long way, especially for people who don’t have much.
His first shoe drive started as his bar mitzvah project (he was bar mitzvahed at Beth El Synagogue in East Windsor Township, New Jersey), which he began planning three years in advance after seeing his brother work on his project.
Zachary’s family previously worked with an organization called Soles4Souls. The organization works with communities and families to create jobs and break the cycle of poverty while preventing waste from ending up in landfills
After he saw one of their videos about the impact that one pair of donated shoes, Zachary’s mind was made up. He was especially moved by seeing children who lived without shoes.
His first shoe drive was held at the Robbinsville Police Department in 2019. But the charity didn’t stop after his bar mitzvah: Since his first shoe drive, he has worked with more than 80 businesses in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including the Trenton Thunder baseball team.
Zachary has partnered with 1-800-GOT-JUNK franchisee Eric Blum to transport the shoes to the Soles4Souls storage facility in Bordentown, New Jersey.
“I realized I could do more [to help]. Anyone can do what I’m doing,” he said, explaining why he continued to collect shoes even after his project was completed.
Many of the shoes he has collected have gone to places like Haiti, Honduras and countries in Africa, Zachary said. The shoes go toward providing disaster relief and helping families in need start businesses to support their local communities using the donated shoes.
In the future, Zachary plans to continue working with Soles4Souls, and he hopes to travel with the organization and help deliver the shoes.
The organization is looking for volunteers. For more information, visit its website at soles4souls.org/.