After 27 years of changing lives, one pair of shoes at a time, Mike Barringer is stepping down.
The founder, CEO and only employee of the non-profit The Shoe Bank, the 67-year-old decided to retire on Valentine’s Day – a day the city of Allen named in his honor.
Barringer began collecting used shoes in 1989, while working with the homeless at the StewPot in downtown Dallas. He noticed how many of the men didn’t have proper footwear and set out to feed the need.
The non-profit grew from homeless shelters to schools, delivering shoes all over the Metroplex to all over the world. Many of the shoes are barely worn, name brands like Nike and New Balance.
Barringer has collected, inspected and donated more than 400,000 pairs of shoes to those in need, working out of the garage at his Rockwall home.
“I remember every pair of shoes that I handle. When I see pictures, I remember those shoes because that’s what keeps you going, knowing it’s going to help somebody,” Barringer said.
He made his last delivery of shoes Tuesday to Orphans of the World, a Grand Prairie nonprofit run by Cameron Gray.
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The pair has worked together for nearly 30 years.
“I wish everyone could be like Mike,” Gray said. “He has a heart of gold.”
Gray stores the shoes Barringer brings him and personally delivers tens of thousands of pairs down to children in Central America.
“When you put the numbers to it, there is no way to tell how many children have been able to go to school, get an education, to avoid disease. There’s no way to tell how many people Mike has helped,” Gray said.
One photo Gray keeps framed in the shop is evidence of that help.
It shows a young girl in El Salvador smiling and clutching a pair of pink shoes – her very first pair.
“I remember those shoes, I do,” Barringer said, looking at the photograph.
Barringer said that even though The Shoe Bank is closing, he is working with community members to try and keep his effort going in some way.
Allen City Council will honor Mike Barringer at their meeting Tuesday evening.