Purdy, who founded the organization, is receiving an international honor for her efforts.
In 1999, Purdy started storing donated shoes in her Palos Park garage she had no idea that effort would grow to a world wide dimension. Now her organization distributes donated shoes to impoverished people in more than 24 countries. An experience in Guatemala inspired her.
"I was doing a half marathon like a local run and running along side of me were little kids...and noticed that has bare feet they had the black goo on the bottom of their feet...and I asked one of the runners what's wrong with their feet...he said they put hot tar like a layer of the sole...in lieu of shoes," said Purdy.
Her work has had such an impact in Sri Lanka that the country is honoring her with a prestigious service to humanity award on June 11th.
"We were right there when the tsunami hit in Sri Lanka and we along and got trucks....and gave away every pair of shoes that we had...and now I am getting honored with my first global award," said Purdy.
When she started the effort, Purdy set her goal at collecting 1,000 pairs of shoes. In the 10 years since then, she has distributed 650,000 pairs of shoes in the United States and third world countries.
The group works out of a donated 400,000-square foot warehouse in Alsip, Ill. Share Your Soles operates with the help of several hundred volunteers each week.
"I don't know where the time (has) gone. I tell people I love Mondays. I love being here. I like all the energy. I attract great people. There's no glamour in used shoes, but the best people in my life have come into my life in the last 10 years," said Purdy.
The organization will sponsor a 5k/10k run/walk on the east lawn of Soldier Field at 9 a.m. on Sunday, May 31, 2009. For information on the event or the program, visit shareyoursoles.org/.