Justin Johnson talks Kicks 4 The City and giving back to the community

Justin Johnson and Homeless Man - Photo Credit - Mike Patton
Justin Johnson (right) and homeless man – Photo Credit: Mike Patton

Given the opportunity, most people would like to help do something positive to change their community. Many times the stumbling block is deciding what to do. Sometimes that stumbling block causes a mental paralysis that keeps us from pursuing our inspired passions. Recently we spoke with co-founder Justin Johnson of the non-profit organization Kicks 4 The City. Johnson decided to move on his inspiration and gather shoes for homeless youth and adults. We spoke to Johnson about the history of Kicks 4 The City and giving back to the community.

Tell us about who you are, what you do and why you started Kicks 4 The City.

My name is Justin Johnson. I’m originally from the East St. Louis area. I moved to Chicago about 3 years ago when this got started. During the day I’m a financial adviser. I’m also one of the founders of Kicks 4 The City. I’ve always been involved with marketing and branding. I have a work hard – play hard mentality and the people around me share this. We took this to another level because we always wanted to give back and Kicks 4 The City allows us to use our influence in order to have meaningful impact and make a difference.

What is it about a pair of new shoes that can change someone’s perspective?

Looking at where we currently are as society, we are very shoe conscious. Personally, I think we always have been. Attire and shoes can give you confidence and self esteem, things that can make you feel good about yourself.

What does an organization like Kicks 4 The City mean for the urban community?

We are leading by example. Sometimes in our community, you don’t see relatable people who look like us giving back.  So we have created a range of ways for people to help,from donating an old pair of shoes in their closet to becoming an official ambassador in one of our participating cities. We are almost trying to make giving back look cool.  We aren’t in a position right now to give thousands of dollars to the cause of our choice; however, we can use our reach and influence in some way.

 How long have you been doing this?

We are in our fourth year. We originally started in St. Louis and my cousin Javin convinced me to expand markets after I moved to Chicago.  We are in St Louis, Charlotte, Chicago, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, New York and Detroit. Each city is partnering with a large homeless shelter in their communities. We have it in layered two ways: all shoe donations will benefit the homeless shelters that we have partner with and all financial donations will buy brand new shoes for a selected youth homeless shelter. This year we chose The Night Ministry in Chicago, IL.

Photo Credit: Brandon Best
Photo Credit: Brandon Best

Tell us about your relationship with “The Night Ministry”

The Night Ministry is the youth homeless shelter in Chicago that we will be buying brand new shoes for with the financial contributions that we receive from Nov 1st to the 20th. I was introduced to the Night Ministry last year when we dropped off about 30 pair of brand new shoes from Nike. We saw what the Night Ministry was about and I really believe in the services they provide. They work with children who have been displaced or rejected by their families. They also work with pregnant teens. What really pricked my heart was when I saw the cribs for the babies they are bringing to this shelter with them.

What kind of shoes are people donating?

We won’t turn away any shoe. We accept sneakers, boots, heels and dress shoes. We understand every shoe serves a different purpose and can add value to that person in need. If someone is going for an interview and they need a pair of dress shoes they might have an option. In colder cities like Chicago or New York boots are more effective. We accept all forms of shoes mainly because we accept all forms.

What words of encouragement do you have for our readers?

Get involved in your community and give back somehow, someway!  Find something that you are passionate about and look for ways you can make a difference in that area.

Learn more about Kicks4TheCity at their website: kicks4thecity.org.

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