Jolly Old Soles—Connecting Those Willing to Help with Those in Need

January 2016 View more

NMAG0116_Neighborhood_nm Phyllis Parise 1_800px

Phyllis Parise, Founder

Phyllis Parise, a professor at Lewis University College of Business for the past 15 years, has always had a heart for helping others through charitable work. In fact, she says her passion to make a difference started in the town she still calls home. “At a very young age I was inspired by Vicky Joseph of Families Helping Families in Naperville,” recalls Parise about her early interest in volunteering.

A Dream Realized

Five years ago this DuPage County native realized she wanted to do more to pay it forward. She wanted to start her own charity. Moved by the realization that there are more than 800,000 homeless people in the United States and realizing that everyone, the young and old, needs shoes, Parise began to transform her idea into reality. She applied for a 501(c)(3) and in 2010, she launched a new nonprofit called Jolly Old Soles.

A Helping Hand

Others have since joined her effort and now share her vision and commitment. Her daughter, Morgan, now a senior at Eastern Illinois University, helped her mother since the organization’s inception, along with and an energetic board of directors including Kathy Ruggio, Wendy Ley and Cherish Thompson. In the last five years Jolly Old Soles has collected thousands of donated new and used shoes for children and adults in need, primarily for those in the western suburbs but also for groups outside Illinois.

Of course, they haven’t achieved this alone. Thanks to the generosity of so many in the Naperville area, thousands of shoes—which would otherwise sit unused and hidden away in many household closets—have found new owners and a new purpose for those who need them. Parise’s basement is packed with more than 7,694 pairs of shoes as of December, and she has successfully donated them to help 6,744 recipients. One recent group, the children of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, is particularly meaningful for Parise, whose charitable giving has reached out as far as Tennessee, Missouri and the Dominican Republic.

However, the organization’s primary focus is to benefit groups and individuals who live closer to home. Some of the local  organizations they have helped include: Families Helping Families; Hesed House; The Family Shelter Service of DuPage County; The Dioceses of Joliet; Wayside Cross Ministries; Bridge Communities; and Hands of Hope at Community Christian Church, just to name a few.

More Than Shoes

In addition to new and used shoes, Jolly Old Soles also accepts other shoe-related items. They have been happy to receive shoe laces, for example, and gift cards to stores that sell shoes and shoe supplies like Payless Shoesource, DSW, Shoe Carnival, WalMart, Target, Meijer and others. And, of course, they happily accept monetary donations to offset the cost of shipping all of those shoes and accessories.

Fundraisers have been very helpful. Local businesses have hosted parties and events to donate a percentage of their sales to Jolly Old Soles, while other groups from local schools have organized collection drives for shoe donations.

Asked if she will outgrow the current storage capacity in her basement and need to move to a bigger space, Parise admits that due to cost and convenience, it probably won’t happen anytime soon. However, there is something they desperately need in addition to storage space. “We are in great need of shelves!” said Parise. “Anyone who has shelves they would like to donate, or who is willing to help build, or maybe even kids who need to do a volunteer project buildings shelves, would be greatly appreciated.”

For more information about the program or information on how you can help, visit

Photo by Robyn Sheldon