Two Ten Through The Decades
Two Ten was founded in 1939 in the leather district in Boston, Massachusetts – the birthplace of the shoe industry in the United States and the greatest concentration of footwear manufacturers, companies and workers at the time. During the Great Depression, many jobs were lost, and shoe industry was not immune. A group of local shoepeople gathered together every Wednesday to share stories and cigars, and pass a hat to contribute some of their meager earnings for whosever family was most in need that week.
This simple act of kindness, compassion and caring for community eventually inspired the development of a small organization dedicated solely to helping shoepeople in need. Setting up at 210 Lincoln Street, from which the organization would take its name, A.A. Bloom, Abe Berkowitz, Morris Rosenston and Al Schachat founded the Two Ten Footwear Foundation.
The Two Ten Footwear Foundation grew rapidly during its first 10 years. The Annual Banquets and bi-annual golf tournaments raised awareness throughout the industry, and in 1945 Two Ten became a national organization.
Two Ten began supporting the industry through emergency financial relief for everything from hospital bills, to missed mortgage payments, to funeral expenses, utility payments and other necessary expenses. Two Ten also started an initiative with the Red Cross, paying for a Mobile Canteen to help reach the Boston shoe community door-to-door as an alternative to a check.
Two Ten Footwear Foundation evolved the Mobile Canteen initiative into a bigger program. Over the next decade the vehicle traveled more than 100,000 miles and answered approximately 1,000 emergency calls including fire alarms, explosions, hurricanes, and floods.
As the canteen evolved, the Foundation added on the role of providing meals at the vehicle during disasters. Two Ten was growing into more than just an emergency relief non-profit – it was becoming a lifeline to footwear families during the most pressing need.
The 1960’s were a turbulent time in the United States, and Two Ten continued to expand its services to support the footwear community. To meet changing needs, Two Ten increased counseling services and outreach; however, it became apparent that emergency relief and counseling weren’t enough in the rapidly shifting landscape of the nation. In 1969, with the country on the brink of war with Vietnam, the Foundation launched a Scholarship Program.
The Two Ten Scholarship Program started revving its engines as it rolled into 1970. The first year Two Ten offered 20 scholarships, and by the end of the decade, 170 scholarships had been awarded to industry employees who wanted to advance themselves, and to the sons and daughters of shoe industry employees. By making higher education more affordable, Two Ten was helping develop a more educated workforce.
Two Ten Footwear Foundation continued to strengthen the footwear community by expanding support services. During the AIDS epidemic that swept across the U.S, Two Ten developed and distributed educational resources nationwide to corporations, shoe stores, and warehouses to provide the industry with information on the virus — information that wasn’t yet being offered under the Reagan Administration.
Since its founding, Two Ten Footwear Foundation focused exclusively on employees of the U.S footwear industry. In the early 1990’s, the international footwear community reached out for help and Two Ten responded.
Launching a trial Two Ten International program, the emergency financial services assisted shoepeople in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Canada. Complications in dealing with multiple international communities, cultures, and policies made the efforts too difficult and Two Ten returned its focus back to the United States.
The Two Ten Footwear Foundation scholarship program continued to grow through generous donations and successful fundraising, and Two Ten evolved its scholarship opportunities to meet the greater needs of the industry.
In addition to offering standard higher-education scholarships, Two Ten added a professional development scholarship by partnering with the industry-leading design schools ARSUTORIA, Pensole Footwear Academy and FIT. This not only increased opportunity for advancement within the industry, but also began to establish Two Ten within the design community.
The last decade has brought many new initiatives designed to meet the ever-changing needs of the industry and its workforce. In addition to offering emergency financial support, natural disaster recovery, counseling services and scholarships to footwear employees and their families, Two Ten Footwear Foundation has become the epicenter of the footwear industry by providing the programs and professional support required to continually inspire and advance our workforce. Today, the Foundation engages and unites the footwear community through events, professional groups, volunteer programs and more.
What was once the annual Banquet in the 1940’s has become the Two Ten Annual Gala — an evening of philanthropy and entertainment for the industry’s most influential leaders, next-generation leaders, and biggest Two Ten supporters to raise more than $3.5 million for footwear families in need.
The Two Ten Women In Footwear Industry (WIFI) actively connects and inspires the industry’s most influential women and next-generation leaders through mentoring, educational programs, seminars, and special events.
And the newly formed Two Ten Associate Board is a group of the industry’s next generation of leaders from across the U.S. who work together to support the mission of Two Ten Footwear Foundation and ensure the continuation of its 80-year legacy.