By Carolyn Gusoff

BELLMORE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – The pandemic has taken a toll on charities. It’s impossible to fundraise the traditional way with galas and walk-a-thons, so groups are getting creative.

Some are collecting used shoes, and making money with them.

As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reports, there are shoes everywhere in a Bellmore garage. Hundreds of them have been donated to help raise money for NAMI of Queens/Nassau, a mental health nonprofit. It has been unable to hold fundraisers the way it used to.

“They went away with the pandemic.  Unfortunately, the need increased and our ability to do what we do decreased. So we try to come up with different ways of fundraising,” said Janice Garfinkel of NAMI Queens/Nassau.

LINK: NAMI Queens/Nassau | Funds2Orgs

This way, supporters aren’t asked to open their wallets. Instead?

“People are emptying out their closets. We are getting brand new shoes – never been worn, gently used shoes,” Garfinkel said.

So far, they’ve collected 1,300 pairs, and counting.

“People are amazing. People come to the door with a mask on, give us hundreds of shoes at a time,” said Shari Levin of NAMI Queens/Nassau.

How do donated shoes raise money? The fundraising company Funds2Orgs collects the bags and ships millions of shoes to 26 developing countries, where local merchants sell them.

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“In places like Haiti and Honduras, places that have been devastated by natural disasters, they don’t have malls. They don’t have an Adidas store,” said Kristy Fontelera of Funds2Orgs. “They resell it in their marketplaces. Some people resell in flea market-type stalls, and others will resell it just on their front porch.”

They’ve been doing it for seven years, providing revenue and shoes for poor families, returning a fraction of the profits to U.S. charities organizing the shoe drives. Organizations are paid by the pound. NAMI’s goal of 100 bags will pay them $1,000.

“Every dollar helps. We will be able to have more classes, to educate people, to help families, to help people who are struggling,” said Garfinkel.

And yet another win: The collections keep shoes out of landfills, where they could take generations to decompose.

Officials with Funds2Orgs say there is no shortage of demand in countries where the shoes are sold.

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Carolyn Gusoff