Part-time city residents offering full-time hope through Coachella Valley Has Sole
An effort led by two winter residents pairs those in need with clean shoes. The couple hopes to expand the program beyond Palm Springs.-
Judy and Mike Wexler are well versed in the plight of the homeless.
The residents of Doylestown, Penn., winter in Palm Springs, and 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, residing here during the winter months the last 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.;
- Mailbox Plus, 611 S. Palm Canyon Dr. #7;
- Birkenstock, 160 S. Palm Canyon Dr.; and
- 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 make sure boxes are not full. 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 eventually reside in Palm Springs year-round, have a contingency plan in place 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.