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Local shoe company fundraises to help people with disabilities

A+Creative+Souls+employee+holds+up+shoes+they+painted.+The+local+shoe+company%2C+which+specializes+in+hiring+people+with+disabilites%2C+is+attempting+to+raise+%2450%2C000+to+expand+hiring.
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Local shoe company fundraises to help people with disabilities

A Creative Souls employee holds up shoes they painted. The local shoe company, which specializes in hiring people with disabilites, is attempting to raise $50,000 to expand hiring.

A Creative Souls employee holds up shoes they painted. The local shoe company, which specializes in hiring people with disabilites, is attempting to raise $50,000 to expand hiring.

A Creative Souls employee holds up shoes they painted. The local shoe company, which specializes in hiring people with disabilites, is attempting to raise $50,000 to expand hiring.

A Creative Souls employee holds up shoes they painted. The local shoe company, which specializes in hiring people with disabilites, is attempting to raise $50,000 to expand hiring.

By Madalyn Velisaris, Staff Writer

Creative Souls, a local shoe company focusing on hiring people with disabilities, is trying to fundraise $50,000 through Kickstarter by April 12 for a printer and for company funds to expand hiring.

Only 17 percent of people with disabilities are employed, according to the Kickstarter page of Creative Souls.

“They often don’t have opportunities to have a sustainable income and to be able to be self-sufficient, so this is an opportunity for them to become self-sufficient and have autonomy to form their own decision-making and how they live their lives,” said Carol Mauck, member of Creative Souls Board of Directors and clinical assistant professor in Social Work.

People hired by Creative Souls work as artists who paint shoes and receive a 50 percent share for each pair of shoes sold. The rest of the revenue is spent on materials for company goods.

“One of the challenges that we saw with the original idea of hand-painting canvas shoes was that we were limited by a specific design on a specific size of shoe,” said Erez Cohen, adjunct instructor in Social Work and executive director of the Illini Hillel Cohen Center for Jewish life.

With the printer, Creative Souls can create more artwork on a greater variety of shoes and sizes than is possible with the current hand-painting process. According to the Kickstarter page, the printer will also allow the company to branch out beyond shoes and into other products.

Drew McNamara, founder of Creative Souls, said the printer will help the company reach artists with disabilities across the U.S.

“In general, I would be able to get them more money, because their design now can be on more than one shoe, so if they are hand-painting, I could only pay them for one pair of shoes that they did,” McNamara said.

To receive fundraising money through Kickstarter, Creative Souls must reach its goal or else the company will not receive any of the money. The money will be returned to the backers instead of going to the printer if the $50,000 goal is not met.

People who donate money to Creative Souls can receive stickers, shirts or shoes as rewards, depending on the amount donated. Some of the styles will come from the printer if the goal is met.

Prices for shoes range from $50 for a pair of hand-painted shoes to $90 for a pair of high-tops. McNamara said he has hopes that prices will go down when the company has more funds and expands.

If Creative Souls reaches its goal of $50,000 and the printer is purchased, McNamara has high hopes for the future of expanding his company beyond the employment of artists with disabilities.

“I want to help people create artwork and have a job through art. I also see Creative Souls being way more than that,” McNamara said. “I want it to help people if they are not artists. I want to provide them with a job where they can help with shipping and packaging.”

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