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DHL eCommerce UK helps charity donate football boots to those in need with Just Right Returns

Charity Boots is a charity that collects unwanted football boots and donates them to children who otherwise couldn’t afford them, across the UK and developing nations. Founder and football coach Neil Smith says that DHL’s support was the “missing piece of the puzzle”.

Making football accessible at home and abroad

The idea for Charity Boots came from Neil’s 2015 trip to Colombia, his mother’s native country. “I was born in London but spent time in Colombia and saw a lot of poverty growing up. The local kids used to run around in bare feet,” says Neil. “So ahead of this trip, I asked parents I knew to donate any used football boots. I took 50 pairs out to Colombia and there were loads of kids waiting at the local pitch to receive them.”

Neil saw first-hand the need for this initiative overseas, and so the charity was officially established. About 80% of the boots are donated to developing nations, including seven African countries, Bangladesh, Brazil and Colombia. Since the pandemic and cost of living crisis however, demand rose in the UK too.

“I get emails from schools saying children don’t have the right footwear to participate. Emails from social services regarding children in social care. From refugee hotels where the asylum seekers want to play football. Or even from individual families who are struggling,” explains Neil. Now, 20% of the boots are distributed around the UK.

A partnership with DHL eCommerce UK

Charity Boots has collection bins at football hotspots, including Wembley, Tottenham, Arsenal and Everton. When they empty the bins every few months, they may have 70 pairs to collect. But the charity was looking for a way to scale up and make donating easier.

“I came across a charity called Kits4Causes who partnered with DHL, so I reached out to them,” Neil says. “DHL loved the concept straight away and ran with it. Which is great, because they were my carrier of choice above everyone else.”

Since the launch of the partnership with DHL in mid-2023, the charity receives around 500 extra pairs a month – collected from Service Points UK-wide and delivered directly to them with the Just Right Returns service.

“When people want to donate, it’s easy now. They can go to the DHL portal for Charity Boots, and get a QR code sent to their phone to show in-store or print their label out and stick it on the box. They can put in their postcode find their local Service Point, drop it off and I’ll get the boots 4-5 days later,” says Neil.

Then the Charity Boots team cleans up the boots by hand and sends them on to their final destinations.

The missing piece of the puzzle

“When it’s a brand like DHL, people know it’s reliable. It gives the charity credibility to be working with a large carrier,” says Neil. “People can even send 20 kilos worth of boots. Not just one or two pairs. You can effectively send a whole suitcase full to me! That’s great.”

And when it comes to customer service, Charity Boots say they “couldn’t ask for more.”

“They bend over backwards to help me. Any problems I have, they’re always on hand to help me out,” says Neil. The charity is also happy to have aligned with a partner who also cares about sustainability and circularity. Neil explains:

“Kids go through boots like no tomorrow and they end up in landfill. We provide the solution to giving those boots a second life. It’s win-win: you’re helping the less fortunate and recycling too. It’s great that DHL have the same values… it’s a match made in heaven.”

Making football accessible at home and abroad

The recent growth with DHL is exciting, but Neil is keen to do more to support kids in need: “You don’t just plant one seed, you want to plant a whole forest.”

“Maybe some PR companies could get involved to help make more people aware of the initiative. Or companies could reach out and sponsor us or raise money for us, so that we can help more children. We also always need volunteers and fundraisers. The more the merrier!”

The ultimate dream? “We’re lucky enough to work with clubs and professional footballers, but the dream is to work with FIFA. You want change to start at the top of the pyramid.”

Neil says that in the UK alone 12 million people play football every week, so there must be millions of unwanted boots out there awaiting donation. They’re hoping that with the support of new fundraisers and corporate sponsors, that they can grow to distribute more of these boots to underprivileged people. DHL eCommerce UK is delighted to help them.

Would Charity Boots recommend DHL? “A million percent!”


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