The airline flight attendant owns about 50 colorful pairs and would probably have more if her budget allowed it, including more expensive brands such as Prada and Manolo Blahnik, she sheepishly admitted.
But with age comes wisdom, as the old adage goes, and experience has taught Webb that shoes do not make the woman — however, they sure can make her feel good. That’s why she established a nonprofit to add a bit of comfort to the lives of homeless and low-income metro Atlanta residents.
Since 2007, 40 Girls and Some Shoes has distributed 10,000 pairs of free, new and gently worn shoes to women, children and men through shoe drives and fundraisers throughout the area.
“I have gotten tears, I get hugs and I get kids saying ‘thank you,’ because their shoes are too tight and some of them haven’t had new shoes in more than a year,” said Webb, 48.
Webb says 40 Girls and Some Shoes was formed to give those who may need a jumpstart in life one of life’s basic necessities, a pair of shoes. She learned that lesson from a very personal experience.
In August 2003, Webb (born on Christmas Day) and four of her very good friends celebrated turning 40 years old that year. They threw a big birthday bash with more than 300 guests in what they dubbed a “forty girls and some shoes” celebration to celebrate life at age 40 and their shared love of shoes.
Little did Webb know at that time, however, that her first cousin was struggling through life and would eventually die of a heart attack a couple of years later in a homeless shelter in Houston, Texas. It seemed as if Paula Godfrey, who had been housewife for most of her adult life, had difficulty coping with life after her divorce, the family assumes.
It remains a big mystery, said Webb, who only found out at the funeral that her cousin had lived in shelter.
“When my family received her belongings, she only had two pairs of shoes among a few articles of clothing,” Webb said. “To this day, we still don’t know where her things were.”
“It just struck a cord in me,” added Webb.
“Here, my friends and I are celebrating life and the plethora of shoes we had, and my cousin died with a couple of pairs of shoes.”
After the funeral, Webb said she returned home with a newfound determination to be an agent for transformative change in the lives of those in need.
Yakita Wilkinson of Atlanta has been one of many 40 Girls and Some Shoes volunteers for the past two years. She said she is amazed at Webb’s tireless work across metro Atlanta on behalf of others.
“You really see people who are really in need of these shoes,” said Wilkinson, 30.
“She sets it up where it’s not making them feel like they have less. They have the opportunity to shop for the shoes, so they get a shopping bag and the volunteers help them pick out what shoes they want.”
The organization partners with various businesses, churches and outreach organizations to receive donations year-round from individuals and retailers, and then distributes them to those in need.
In 2009, 40 Girls and Some Shoes distributed shoes at the Cobb Civic Center to victims of the flood that year. In July, it partnered with the Atlanta Braves with a shoe drive at Turner Field. It also conducted a shoe drive at the Smyrna Community Center in August. In recent months, it has stepped up its efforts to meet the demands of the unemployed facing homelessness.
Every August, 40 Girls and Some Shoes conducts its biggest fundraiser of the year called “Charity from the Sole.”
On Nov. 16, it was honored by Wells Fargo with a $1,000 grant at the company’s Days of Giving ceremony at the Mansour Center in Marietta.
Donations to 40 Girls and Some Shoes can be made online at 40girlsandsomeshoes.org or by calling (678) 457-8500.