Buy a Pair, Give a Pair: Cummins Employees Start Safety Shoes Donation Program

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Before Lisa Collins began working for Cummins in 2007, she was a volunteer for United Way 211 (formerly First Call for Help 211), a community information and referral service in Columbus, Indiana. She answered the help line, providing referrals to callers.

“We often had people who needed financial assistance for purchasing safety shoes for work, but no community resources existed for this type of help,” said Lisa, Global ECommerce Support. “After I joined Cummins, I was struck by how many shoes must get discarded every year when employees used their shoe allowance to purchase a new pair.”

Identifying a Need and Formulating a Plan

In 2013, Lisa sponsored a Community Involvement Six Sigma (CISS) project at the Columbus Fuel Systems Plant, which ultimately resulted in the Cummins Safety Shoes Donation Program. Nate Benjamin, a Six Sigma Green Belt at Cummins, ran the project with the assistance of Cheryl Kellett, a Six Sigma Master Black Belt. Together, they had the support of the Fuel Systems Plant Leadership Team.

Safety Shoes
More than 45 safety shoes similar to these were donated during Cummins’ first two “Buy a Pair, Give a Pair!” events.

The first step was to identify an appropriate community partner that would be willing to accept donated safety shoes. Enter Sans Souci in Columbus, which – pardon the pun – seemed like a natural fit.

Sans Souci, French for “without worry,” runs a free assistance program and a thrift store where disadvantaged residents with critical needs can receive free or low-cost clothing, linens and furniture. The organization also offers job training and development.

Karen Cole, a Cummins employee and Six Sigma Black Belt, is president of the Sans Souci board. When she learned of the potential CISS project, she notified Sans Souci manager Sheryl Adams.

“We never have enough steel-toe shoes,” said Sheryl. “We try to keep a couple of pairs back if someone needs them.”

For Sheryl and those who benefit from the services offered at Sans Souci, help was on the way.

Off and Running

Ultimately, the donation program that Nate and his team developed at the Fuel Systems Plant serves a dual purpose. It allows low-income, skilled individuals to fill various positions at Cummins and other community employers. Naturally, these are positions that require the use of steel-toe safety shoes. As an added bonus, the program helps the environment by reducing the total number of shoes discarded into landfills.

So how does the Cummins Safety Shoes Donation Program work? Various safety shoe vendors come to the Fuel Systems Plant on a fixed schedule throughout the year, enabling Cummins employees to purchase new shoes on site. During the CISS project, Nate determined that the best way to effectively run the Cummins Safety Shoes Donation Program would be to tie it to the existing shoe truck schedule. Cummins employees have the opportunity to buy a new pair of safety shoes or boots when the truck is on site, while simultaneously donating their gently used pair.

Just like that, the “Buy a Pair, Give a Pair!” program at Cummins was born.

The donation program is advertised internally to plant employees in conjunction with shoe truck notices. When the shoe truck is on site, employees can deposit their old shoes in reusable totes that are set-up nearby. After the truck leaves, Nate gathers the shoe-filled totes and delivers them to Sans Souci.

Forty-six Pairs of Shoes and Counting

During the first “Buy a Pair, Give a Pair!” event, the Fuel Systems Plant donated 19 pairs of safety shoes. The project was later replicated at Cummins Engine Plant, which resulted in an additional 27 pairs of shoes being donated during the plant’s first event.

“We really do appreciate the effort put into this program,” said Karen. “It is filling a very real need in the community.”

Of course the efforts don’t stop there. Never satisfied, the team’s long term goal is to replicate the “Buy a Pair, Give a Pair!” plan at other Cummins plants around the world.


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