When a single mom from Louisiana was forced to relocate to a hotel out of state due to Hurricane Ida, it took just 48 hours for Two Ten Footwear Foundation to issue her an e-check so she could pay her bill.
As the rate of natural disasters escalates, receiving aid quickly can be a game-changer for families — which is one reason Two Ten has recently focused on improvements in technology as part of its mission to support industry members.
“In a time when [people] are going through a personal hardship or natural disaster and they need help quickly — how quickly they get that help is important,” said Shawn Osborne, CEO and president of Two Ten, whose work has grown over the years to span emergency and hardship relief, as well as educational scholarships. “Sometimes you feel the world is upside down with all the health issues and natural disasters,” said Osborne. “It’s made us so relevant in such a critical time.”
For longtime Two Ten supporter Shoe Carnival, nothing could ring truer. Cliff Sifford, vice chairman and former CEO of the family retail chain, told FN that Two Ten has helped Shoe Carnival employees rebound after a range of events. “They reach out to us during a disaster,” he said. “They’re usually the first call we get about how they can help. You can’t imagine what it meant to me as CEO.”
When the coronavirus pandemic hit last year, the nonprofit created the COVID-19 Fundraising Campaign to help footwear workers struggling to make ends meet. Glenn Barrett, founder and CEO of OrthoLite, and his wife, Midge, kicked off the campaign with a $500,000 donation. “It felt like the quickest way for us to battle the pandemic and ease peoples’ pain,” said Barrett, who encouraged others to join the effort.
Over the past 18 months, Two Ten has provided $4.7 million to nearly 6,900 employees and their families as job loss and medical issues have escalated. “When you lose your job, you typically lose your health insurance,” Osborne said. “We’ve also seen a significant rise over the last six months in deaths. It’s been tragic. It’s been illness, traffic accidents, crimes.”
In addition to monetary aid, Two Ten also provides other support to those facing unexpected life-changing issues. “We can connect people directly with counselors who specialize in things such as mental health and financial consulting,” said Osborne. “We provide the counseling services that complement relief grants.”
Even during the current wave of challenges, Two Ten hasn’t lost sight of helping people continue to move forward. This year it stepped up its educational assistance by offering qualified applicants, both those receiving scholarships and those they could not assist, by awarding free one-year subscriptions to Scholly, a college scholarship app that matches students with available scholarships.
To consistently offer programs like these takes an ongoing flow of funds, especially during the pandemic. And Osborne said donors continued to step up to the plate this past year, allowing Two Ten to meet its goals. “We saw significantly more corporate donors,” he said, noting that donations from individuals did decline as many faced their own set of challenges.
In order to keep its fundraising efforts going full force, Two Ten has shifted to a year-round approach instead of focusing primarily on the annual gala, according to Terri Rawson, chief marketing and development officer. (The 2021 gala has been rescheduled from December to June 6, 2022. At the event, Sifford will receive the T. Kenyon Holly Memorial Award and Barrett will be honored with the A.A. Bloom Memorial Award.)
Recently, Rawson, Osborne and Stacie Finnegan, managing director of advancement, have been meeting with donors via Zoom calls to present the need for their support. “COVID allowed us to have a more personal and direct conversation with donors,” said Rawson. “The gala will now serve as a moment to celebrate on an annual basis and become part of their donor benefit,” she added.
Donors will also be included in more social media outreach and marketing. “We’re making more effort to be more openly and outwardly grateful for their support,” said Osborne. “As we refocus our efforts we want people to think of Two Ten not only as a charity but an employee benefit.”
COVID surprisingly also allowed Two Ten to put more money in its own till. In July, it sold its corporate headquarters in Waltham, Mass., in favor of renting one floor in the building. It’s part of a new flexible work schedule. “We can now add more money to the Two Ten endowment, which has been growing,” said Osborne