Brooklyn Sneakerhead Empowers Youth Through Footwear Passion

By Brianna Robles

Like any other sneakerhead, Rhee Andrews, founder of the nonprofit Communal Sole Club, always rocks the flyest kicks wherever she goes.

Wearing great sneakers is the foundation of a stylish outfit, Andrews said. But she also knows that many Brooklyn children cannot afford them. As a high school sports coach, she saw many students, as well as children in her community, were always in desperate need of clothing and shoes.

She figured what better way to give back than with sneakers — an item she loved.  Now, Communal Sole Club hosts sneaker drives for children and young adults all over Brooklyn and the East Coast.

Over 20 children gathered in Brownsville at the Family Enrichment Center on Tuesday to receive more than 60 pairs of sneakers to add to their wardrobe. The giveback included sneaker customizations, cleaning and arcade games for children and young adults.

“It’s not just so kids have access to sneakers, but also it ties into a portion of confidence,” explained Andrews. “[It’s] being able to give themselves a little bit of style and allow themselves an opportunity to just express themselves.”

The initial idea for the giveaway started in 2021 when Andrews wanted to organize a volunteer opportunity for the younger generation in her hometown of New Bedford, Mass.

Fast forward to 2022, Andrews brought the initiative to Brooklyn and has since hosted four givebacks in the borough and has given away over 1,000 pairs of shoes.

Communal Sole Club hosts sneaker givebacks for local youth. Photo: Provided/Rhee Andrews

Instead of wasting shoes that are out of style or that no longer fit, Andrews’ model allows those who have excess shoes to give them to a good cause.

The organization accepts donations in several ways. Currently one drop-off bin is located at the Brownsville Family Enrichment Center, but the bins are rotated through various locations in Midwood, Crown Heights and Bed-Stuy.

You can also schedule a pick-up by reaching out to the organization via their social media pages.

“The main goal and focus of Communal Sole is wherever we receive the donation, the donation stays because there’s a need in every community,” said Andrews.

On occasion, drop-off bins are placed in local small businesses. This brings foot traffic to local mom-and-pops and makes it easy for patrons to donate their unused sneakers while getting to know their local businesses, she said.

Andrews said her mission is bigger than sneakers. As a community engager, Community Sole Club hosts other events like neighborhood cleanups, holiday parties for children and sneaker design workshops where youth can let their creativity run free when designing a pair of shoes.

In addition, Communal Sole has collaborated with other local organizations including PeacePlayers USAThe Service Collective and the clothing brand DWOE.

Andrews said she is looking to expand her sneaker givebacks to other cities. Currently, they are run in New York City, Massachusetts and in the Washington D.C. area.


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