Part-time residents offer full-time hope through ‘Coachella Valley Has Sole’
By Tom Hardesty
Judy and Mike Wexler are well versed in the plight of the homeless.
The residents of Doylestown, Penn., who winter in Palm Springs, have witnessed firsthand the harsh conditions faced by the homeless in the Greater Philadelphia area.
“I saw it while running races in Philadelphia,” said Judy, an avid runner. “I’d be running through the streets and noticed that there were a lot of homeless people. So we started giving back with meals and things like that.”
Now, the Wexlers have brought their philanthropy to Palm Springs, where they’ve resided during the winter months the past four years.
“Last year, we were driving through Palm Springs and saw a man sitting on the side of the street. He wasn’t wearing shoes or socks, and his feet were swollen,” Judy said. “He had a sign that said, ‘I need money to buy shoes.’ I looked at Mike and said, ‘We need to do something.'”
The Wexlers promptly made a trip to the shoe store, bought the size the man requested – “he needed a 13 wide, and they only had one left,” Judy said – and thus a grassroots footwear collection program called Coachella Valley Has Sole was born.
“We bought the sneakers and some socks and brought him food,” Judy said. “He was overjoyed.”
Since that day, the Wexlers have teamed with four Palm Springs merchants to establish CV Has Sole collection boxes at their sites for shoe donations. The 18x18x36 cardboard collection boxes are placed at the following locations:
- Running Wild, 180 N. Palm Canyon Dr.
- Mail Box Plus, 611 S. Palm Canyon Dr. #7
- Birkenstock, 160 S. Palm Canyon Dr.
- PSA Organica, 400 E. Sunny Dunes Rd.
“It’s very eye-opening, the needs of the homeless community like footwear,” Mike said. “We have a deep belief that it is our responsibility to do our small part to give back and make this a better place to live. We realize it won’t solve the homeless issue in our area.”
Official statistics list the homeless population in Palm Springs at around 200, “but it’s probably more like 400 or even higher,” Judy said. “There are a lot of factors that go into it like mental health issues, drugs, and other things, and we’d really like to be able to teach them to fish instead of just giving them a fish. But (CV Has Sole) at least helps them get reliable footwear.”
The Wexlers stop by each collection location at least once every two weeks to check the boxes. They bring the collected footwear home, sort and clean it, then take it to two rescue missions for direct distribution to the financially insecure: Coachella Valley Rescue Mission in Indio and Well In The Desert in Palm Springs.
“The merchants we’re leaving the boxes with, the rescue missions, and the city of Palm Springs couldn’t be better at embracing this idea,” Mike said. “We started this initiative last month – the first box was dropped off right before Christmas. Right now, all four boxes are in the town of Palm Springs, and ideally, there are other towns in the Coachella Valley we’d like to get our boxes into.
“The shoes that we have been getting so far, the vast majority, are running shoes that have a lot of life left in them. Some are new, but most are used that are in really good condition. We sort through them to make sure they are of sound quality.”
The Wexlers, who hope to reside in Palm Springs year-round eventually, have a contingency plan for CV Has Sole when they return to Pennsylvania.
“We’ve already reached out to our friends in the area, and we’re absolutely going to be expanding this and have a group of people helping us,” Mike said. “We already have had several of our friends agree to pick up for us when we’re not here. We’ll have all the resources we need to keep it going.
“We’re just starting out with this thing, but with the number of shoes we’ve received so far, it’s very promising. I’m overwhelmed. We’re hoping to expand this program, and what we’re looking for are high-traffic areas. If there’s a business that would like to have a box at their location or other organizations that can use the shoes, they can contact us, and we’ll get it set up.”
More information: Coachella Valley Has Sole can be reached via email at [email protected] or by phone at 760-424-2902.
HIKING RESCUES, DEATH: Three hikers stranded in icy conditions in the San Jacinto mountains were rescued by a helicopter team over the weekend along the Cactus to Clouds Trail, officials said Sunday. Also on Sunday, a hiker died after falling on the South Ridge Trail near Tahquitz Peak around 2 p.m. The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said emergency personnel had rescued multiple people on Cactus to Clouds in the past week beyond an altitude of 6,000 feet, where conditions become very cold and icy and are even more treacherous after sundown. The latest rescue occurred on Saturday on the trail at an altitude of about 7,900 feet. The stranded hikers were unable to move safely due to the heavy snow and ice in the area and had to be hoisted off the mountain by a rescue helicopter. According to sheriff’s officials, the hikers were flown to the Palm Springs Tram visitor’s center and were uninjured. The department continues to offer the following advice: Hikers considering making the climb are advised to check the weather conditions ahead of time, dress warm, have adequate water, and use crampons or shoes with spikes.
QUAKE FELT: A magnitude 4.0 earthquake with an epicenter about 17 miles southeast of Temecula was felt in palm Springs Sunday morning. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage. The epicenter of the 9:46 a.m. quake was in Palomar Mountain State Park in northern San Diego County, the U.S. U.S. Geological Survey reported. The quake was originally recorded as a 4.1 before being slightly downgraded. According to the USGS, it had a depth of about 13.7 miles. Aside from being felt in the Coachella Valley, it was also reportedly felt as far north as Riverside, Rialto, and Hesperia.
MIZELL CENTER: The Mizell Center, 480 S. Sunrise Way, offers 6 programs and classes today, starting at 8 a.m. You can find a complete list of all today’s offerings online here.
HBCU TOURS: Deadline is today for students and parents to apply for an opportunity recently announced by the African American Parent Advisory Council (AAPAC) of the Palm Springs Unified School District. Two dozen students will be able to attend a tour of Historic Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) in April completely free of charge. Selected students will fly with approved chaperones to Washington DC and visit several HBCU’s and landmarks in the surrounding area. An application form is available here, and a permission slip for the tour is available here.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
ENTREPRENEUR CLUB: The Women’s Entrepreneur Club of Palm Springs is hosting its second meeting on Tuesday. The group was formed by local business owners Tracy Turco and Erika Flannery to provide female entrepreneurs in the city an opportunity to help one another, support female-owned businesses, and learn how to grow and collaborate. Collaboration will be the topic of the Tuesday, Feb. 1, meeting, planned for 11 a.m. at Flannery Exchange, 750 N Palm Canyon Dr. Attendees are encouraged to bring about 30 business cards and business pamphlets. For more information, email [email protected].
SCHOOL DISTRICT COUNCIL: The Palm Springs Unified School District plans to launch its first-ever Native American Parent Advisory Council, and the first meeting is next week. District officials will be discussing the vision for Native American advocacy and cultural responsiveness in the district on Tuesday from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. via Zoom. Those interested are invited to register via this link. The district said it is looking forward to hearing from Native students, families, and community members interested in helping build a program that empowers the community to share its collective voice and bring awareness to our nation’s first people.
NEXT ART EXHIBIT: The Desert Art Center in Palm Springs opens one of the largest shows of the season on Friday, Feb. 4, with all new works from gallery artists plus an art pop-up in the Studio Gallery featuring the work of Janis Buller and Cathy Parker. Every art lover is welcome to join on the 4th from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. for refreshments and the largest selection of local fine art in the Coachella Valley. DAC is located at 550 North Palm Canyon Dr. in Uptown Palm Springs. Community support feeds the organization’s outreach to schools with art classes and scholarships.
AWARDS GALA: Tickets are on sale now for the Palm Springs Black History Committee’s annual Black History Awards Gala, to be held at the Hilton Ballroom, 400 East Tahquitz Canyon Way, on Saturday, Feb. 5. The gala is the committee’s way of recognizing individuals, groups, and local and corporate businesses contributing to the success and achievements of African Americans and our society. This year’s event begins at 6 p.m. with a silent auction and cocktail hour. Tickets start at $75 and can be purchased at this site.
BIKE EVENT: Registration for the annual Tour de Palm Springs, planned for Feb. 12, remains open. The event features walking and cycling routes, some as long as 100 miles, kicking off between 6:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. All of the routes start and finish on South Palm Canyon Drive near Tahquitz Canyon Way. More information about the event, which draws up to 10,000 cyclists annually, can be found here.