“I’m glad somebody out there cares about me,” said the eight-year-old child, now beaming with joy because he had just received a new pair of shoes for the holidays. For Bob Carpenter, hearing these words tugged at the heartstrings and made the effort so well worth it. You see, Carpenter’s full-time job is Outreach and Education Manager, U.S., for Reliance Worldwide Corporation, yet spends most of his remaining time dedicated to his second full-time job, as CEO of the United Craftsman Children’s Shoe Drive (UCCSD), Inc., a non-profit organization that puts shoes—and now socks—on the feet of children from Children’s Homes and Foster Care.
The idea started back in 2005 when Tracy Newsome collected donations from fellow craftsman to “put shoes on those babies’ feet.” In 2009, Newsome was tragically killed in a car accident returning home from a job running cast iron for Art Plumbing at the Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson International Airport.
At his memorial service, Newsome’s widow asked Carpenter if he could help out and take over the shoe drive. He accepted, and what started with providing for 27 kids in the Atlanta area has turned into helping hundreds of kids every year.
In 2012, what was originally the TAN Shoe Drive becomes the United Craftsmen Children’s Shoe Drive, Inc., a 501 (C) 3, a federally recognized, non-profit charity incorporated in the State of Georgia. “The UCCSD is completely volunteer with no one receiving any compensation or travel reimbursements,” emphasizes Carpenter.
In 2014, UCCSD Inc. expanded into Birmingham, Ala. from the help of Wayne Brown, a retired plumber—a man whom Carpenter had never met. Brown helped set up a charity fishing tournament that started with six boats initially and turned into 27 (with the help of an anonymous contractor donor).
In 2017, in addition to the Atlanta and Birmingham, Ala. areas, UCCSD expanded with events in Daytona, Fla. and Tulsa, Okla. This year they will be branching into the Tampa, Fla. area, as well. In January 2017, James Reeves, Jr., a veteran of the U.S. Navy, and southeast regional sales manager for the ACCOR Technology, was named president of the UCCSD, and is now present at all of the fundraising and Shoe Drive events.
With the assistance from Shoe Carnival, which offers a 30% discount on all shoes purchased, most of the donations come from contractors, skilled craftsmen, and skilled trades organizations. Also, “Reliance Worldwide has been very supportive of my efforts,” says Carpenter.
The Shoe Drive’s mission is admirable—to let children who live in children’s homes know that the skilled craftsmen care about them by affording them the opportunity to pick out a new shoes, socks and enjoy a lunch with other children living in similar circumstances. For more information on the Shoe Drive, visit them online at www.unitedcraftsmenchildrensshoedriveinc.org.
If that wasn’t enough, Carpenter sits on the PHCC Georgia Board and the Georgia State Inspectors Association, and also recently played a major role with the International Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (IWSH) Foundation’s 2018 Community Plumbing Challenge (CPC) and the Navajo Water Project in Thoreau, New Mexico, an initiative to help ensure that every American has clean, running water forever.
A range of bathroom and kitchen renovations were carried out, including the installation of new basins, taps, toilets, water tanks, water pumps, and hot- and cold-water pipework. These renovations and repairs are required in order for these homes to be connected to water supply systems. Meanwhile, efforts outdoors will address the installation of, and connection to, new wastewater systems. In some instances where some residents of homes that grew up without any running water or indoor plumbing, through the help of some industry manufacturers and 60 plumbers, “We were able to equip 10 houses with water and proper sewage disposal. In one home, we witnessed a woman cry the moment we turned the water on,” says Carpenter.
Finally, Carpenter was asked to visit the Navajo Indian Reservation in Pinon, Ariz. to talk plumbing and teach some real-life skills to some 85 kids. Where others have declined the invitation due to the off-the-beaten-path location of the reservation, Carpenter does what he always does, and agreed to lend his time and expertise. “Everyone deserves a chance,” says Carpenter.
Judging from his work with the Shoe Drive and his efforts in the plumbing industry, you believe him at his word, and you can’t help but root for this guy.