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The Man Behind "Shoes For The Shoeless" In Sioux Falls

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Thousands of people have shoes on their feet thanks to the generosity of people in the Sioux Empire and the determination of one man. For the past 7 years the owner of a Sioux Falls shoe repair store has taken time away from his business to help others.

Last year he collected 11,000 pairs of shoes for those in need. Making the old look new is something Reid Matteson is very good at. The success of his "Shoes for the Shoeless" program is proof of that. Sometimes great ideas come from a single moment. For Reid that moment came when a man walked into his store on East 10th Street about 8 years ago.

“He had his shoes all duct taped together and it was the middle of winter, he just wanted to know if I could do just something to get his shoes going so he could make it through, and I thought man that's tough, so I had a pair of shoes someone had left so I gave him a pair and he was just so happy and thankful, that's where I kind of got the idea,” said Matteson.

The first year Reid and his wife Jylan collected 1,500 pairs of shoes. Last year that number climbed to 11,000.

This year the Shoes for the Shoeless Program almost didn't happen. In fact it started a little later than usual. Reid is recovering from heart bypass surgery. The medications make it harder to keep his energy level up, but Reid is determined to keep the program going, something those at the Union Gospel Mission are thankful for. Once collected and serviced, the Union Gospel Mission is where the shoes end up. Executive Director Fran Stenberg says he is impressed with Matteson’s dedication.

“He is a very committed man, I talked with him this morning and I just notice that about him, cause he's had his own problems this summer and he seems so committed top doing this and so excited about being able to do this,” said Stenberg.

The Shoes for the Shoeless Program not only helps people it helps the environment. For instance, if you put a cowboy boot in the landfill it can take decades for it to degrade.

“Why fill the landfill with all these things when we can recycle this stuff and reuse them again? Most of the shoes we get have hardly been worn. People buy them and they don't quite fit right, so what do we do? We put them in the closet never to be seen again. Lets dig them out bring them to us and we will put them back in use," said Matteson.

You can drop off your shoes at Family Orthopedic and Shoe Repair. The store is located at the corner of East 10th Street and Van Eps Avenue in Sioux Falls. Steak-Out delivery drivers will also collect shoes for the program. Reid says since he got a late start he will collect shoes until the end of November.
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