Stoke man restores old trainers to provide fresh kicks for the homeless
Lance Birchall from Stoke-on-Trent has been using Instagram to encourage people to donate their old trainers for him to clean and restore for homeless people.
The project is called Soles of Stoke, which he started in lockdown, along with his own business of restoring people's classic sneakers or customising them.
Through the power of social media, the initiative has grown. Lance now has a new batch of fresh kicks to deliver to those in need every month.
Lance said: "People were saying 'if you can't make these an 8 or 9 out of 10, I'm just going to chuck them in the bin'. So I thought even if I can't, someone will appreciate them even if they don't look brand new."
"I thought I'd have a look around the local area, see what hostels there are and foundations and things like that."
The 25-year-old from Fenton, who describes himself as a 'trainers fanatic', lost his job in lockdown and turned his hobby into a business.
Now his custom trainer business has well and truly kicked off and this year has also been about giving back to the Stoke community.
Not only can people get their shabby trainers restored to a 'like-new' condition, they can also donate their old sneakers for Lance to clean-up and take to those in need.
Just 10 minutes away from Lance's home lies Stoke legend Lou Macari's homeless centre, a warehouse filled with glamping-style pods that give rough sleepers a dignified private bedroom to call their own.
The former Stoke City manager provides Covid-safe accommodation for up-to 40 homeless people, an initiative he started after the Government deemed dormitory-style accommodation no longer safe due to coronavirus guidelines.
Former Manchester United player and Stoke City manager Lou Macari adapts homeless shelter with Covid-safe 'pods'
This is where Lance routinely brings batches of trainers to kit out residents and make them feel new again.
Many of them say receiving the trainers is something to look forward to, and goes a long way to make them feel better.
Now back in work full time, Lance's new company are fully on board with his trainer-restoring project, and they even cover the postage cost for people wanting to donate their shoes.
In the future, Lance also hopes to raise enough money to buy a new pod for a homeless resident at Lou Macari's centre, along with sleeping equipment and vital supplies.
People can donate to Soles of Stoke here or send their old shoes via his instagram page.
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