Philanthropic business uses recycled shoes to help homeless

Several years ago, a Griffin man became a “social entrepreneur” after being laid off as an intern architect.  Brian Keith Miller began interactive workshops for children with three goals: emphasize the importance of making powerful positive choices, dispel stereotypical views of success, and demonstrate the effect of one’s actions.

Less than a year later, he began a philanthropic-based business that combined his love for shoes, youth, and art – Sole Plus.  He invested his entire savings in canvas Converse shoes, allowing children to decorate them as the pleased as a form of artistic expression. Since then, Miller has distributed thousands of shoes to underprivileged children and homeless people.

While on the streets distributing the shoes, the extreme plight of the homeless affected Miller.  Thinking through one of the most pressing conditions facing a homeless person – exposure to the elements and often the use of cardboard as a makeshift bed, Miller again returned to what he knew to help address the problem – shoes.

Nike has a product called “Grind,” made from the soles of recycled tennis shoes.  Miller has designed several product lines using the Nike Grind material, including yoga and camping mats, messanger bags and iPad cases.

Using the increasingly popular, “buy one, we donate one,” business model, Miller plans to donate a Refuz mat to a homeless person with every purchase made from Refuz.

But Miller isn’t stopping at just easing the homeless person’s present life.  In order to fully address the homeless problem facing America, Miller plans to eventually employ and house homeless men and women to work in the Refuz office.  He hopes to have a Refuz campus that has an office, living quarters, and possibly manufacture and distribution center all in one place.

The internships would last for one year, in which time they could learn office, manufacturing and distribution skill sets, while obtaining a degree or certificate from Southern Crescent Technical College.  The living expenses and tuition would be funded through the business.

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