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Local realtor seeking shoe donations to fight extreme poverty

A Woodbury real estate company is giving back to a global nonprofit that equips those in poverty with shoes.

Weichert Realtors Advantage announced last month that it is accepting shoe donations at both its Woodbury and Wayzata offices for Sole4Souls, a global nonprofit that helps alleviate poverty by providing those in need with clothing and shoes.

Aaron Brown, a real estate agent at Weichert Realtors Advantage, said while researching possible nonprofits to work with, he felt Sole4Souls' rating and mission was among the biggest reasons for working with the organization.

According to Charity Navigator, a large country-rating site, Soles4Souls holds a five-star rating, which is the highest for a nonprofit.

The ratings are based on transparency and financial expenses. In 2012, Soles4Souls had a two-star rating.

Thought the nonprofit offers immediate assistance for people who can't afford shoes abroad and throughout the country, Brown said the organization also focuses on long-term poverty alleviation.

One of the initiatives Brown points to helps small-business owners in other countries by selling clothing for a small price in order to spur enterprise.

"It's not just handing out free shoes, but they're actually helping them with business experience," he said. "This seemed more sustainable to me."

Weichert Realtors Advantage manager Mark LaQua said while he hopes to receive as many donations as possible, he feels poverty awareness is what he hopes communities take away from the initiative.

Since clients often turn to LaQua and his colleagues for advice for family planning and lifestyle, he said charity drives like this fit with the company's spirit of giving back.

"So many of our clients turn to us for not just home help, but also things for their family," LaQua said. "We're not just buying and selling homes."

Those wishing to donate shoes can make donations at 710 Commerce Drive, Suite 180, in Woodbury or 1907 Wayzata Boulevard, Suite 110, in Wayzata.

The donation site at both Weichert Realtors Advantage locations will be on-going for the foreseeable future.

To date, the Nashville-based nonprofit has collected and distributed more than 26 million pairs of shoes in 127 countries around the world.