By Gene Jeffers, Red Cross board member
It was just a passing comment in a Territory 3 Disaster Action Team (DAT) meeting — a reflection on the needs of families whose homes or apartments had burned; on people unable to grab anything before they had to flee rising flood waters or quickly finding shelter because of a raging tornado. But when people must get out fast in the middle of the night, sometimes they just don’t have time to put on their shoes, someone noted.
Truth be told, while we take them for granted, shoes are no small thing.
“Shoes are strange things,” Actor Daniel Day-Lewis, once observed. “If you take your shoes off in a situation in which you’re vulnerable, you’ll feel 10 times more vulnerable.”
And few things make you feel more vulnerable than suddenly being driven from your home.
Every Red Crosser worries about how best to care for people stricken by disaster. We make sure they are safe and warm, have food and have a place to stay. But shoes? Disaster Action Team kits do not come with shoes and with many evacuations happening when stores are closed, what to do? What to do?
One of the strengths of the Red Cross is our volunteers and paid staff bring a wide variety of backgrounds, talents and expertise to our disaster relief work. Enter Lauren Goldman, a Red Cross volunteer whose family has been in the shoe business for more than 40 years.
“I’ve always volunteered in the community,” Lauren said. “My family’s company works all over the world, so I’ve been able to travel to Europe and Asia, where I was exposed to how life is lived by many with few resources. My family taught me to care for others, to be sympathetic to where others were in life.
“When COVID hit I could see there was a real need right here at home, so I started with Red Cross in April of 2020. I made it clear I wanted to work in the field.”
Nearing retirement, she sought out opportunities to learn new skills, be challenged and take on more responsibilities to contribute. She has found a home with the Red Cross and has taken every course available to her.
“When I first heard about the need for shoes, that got me thinking,” Lauren said. Shoes, after all, are her area of expertise. She discussed the needs of disaster clients and some other concepts with her fellow Red Crossers. She quickly gained approval to move forward with researching, designing and manufacturing a new line of shoes just for emergency use.
“We needed something like surf shoes or aqua socks but designed for Red Cross needs. I wanted to make sure they had reflective tape for safety reasons, for example,” she said. “Like with any new shoe, we went through initial development, R&D, identified materials, sourced a manufacturer. Less than a year later, we have provided Red Cross with nearly 1,200 pairs of new shoes for men, women and children, 4 to 5 years old through men’s size 13.”
By “we,” Lauren means her family’s business, CELS, which was founded by her parents, Robert and Carol Goldman, and their lines of shoes — Chinese Laundry, CL by Laundry, Dirty Laundry and 42 Gold Premium. “My dad has always donated to causes through footwear, giving to shelters,” she said. “This is just continuing a family tradition.”
“Being new with Red Cross, this was an accidental marriage that worked. I’ve only done two Disaster Action Team calls and have helped with mass feedings,” she said. “I love the learning aspect as a volunteer. It makes you ready for whatever might come. It feels good to contribute.”