Three years ago, Keith Davis hurried from a shower and his deep-thinking time with a plan to give away high-quality running shoes.
The idea was not what you might expect from a young entrepreneur who, only four years earlier, had left BB&T to open a Fleet Feet Sports franchise in Winston-Salem.
But, then you need to know Keith and his wife, Emily, to understand how giving away shoes could fit into a business plan.
Both are committed Christians, active in River Oaks Community Church in Clemmons. Doing good works is part of their lifestyle.
Since Keith’s epiphany in the shower, they have given away hundreds of new and like-new running shoes to homeless men and women and others in need. “We try to give homeless individuals the same experience in fitting shoes that we give to all customers in our store,” Emily says.
By organizing “Mission: Feet First” as a 501(c)(3) Christian charity they have been able to grow this charitable activity. The nonprofit has been awarded two grants from their franchisor, Fleet Feet; they raise money by sponsoring a 5K race; and friends make tax-deductible donations to support the effort. The funds are used to purchase vendor first-quality closeouts to supplement other inventory used in the program.
Last year, they took their “Mission: Feet First” shoe trailer to the Rescue Mission and to Samaritan Ministries, where they fitted “customers” with more than 200 pairs of free running shoes. By taking the trailer where shoes are needed they can serve more effectively. They also sent shoes to a school in Kenya, God’s Repair Shop, Girls on the Run and Solus Christus in East Bend as well as fitting scores during Project Homeless Connect in Winston-Salem.
“One of the gentlemen Keith worked with at the Rescue Mission had severe diabetes and half of one foot had been amputated,” Emily recalls. “SuperFeet, which is one of our suppliers, said they would make a custom prosthetic orthotic just for him, but the gentleman passed away from diabetic complications before the orthotics were ready.
“When Keith told the stories of Mission: Feet First at a sales conference, many people were touched. The senior people with our vendors told Keith he had opened their eyes to people in need.”
Keith and Emily have applied their entrepreneurial skills and their compassion for giving into an enterprise that provides benefits to many in the community. They are under the umbrella we call “Compassionate Winston-Salem,” and they’re bringing others under the umbrella with them.
Justice is compassion raised to an institutional level.