South Jersey shoe store donates footwear to veterans, others in need

Matteo Iadonisi Image
Monday, October 2, 2023
South Jersey shoe store donates footwear to veterans, others in need
The namesake of Al's Shoes was a military man. He'd be proud to know his son is using the family business to serve countless veterans.

VINELAND, New Jersey (WPVI) -- "My family has been in the shoe business, this is our 75th year," said Brian Lankin.

Lankin followed in his father's footsteps by working at Al's Shoes since he was 12 years old.

As the namesake of the store, Al Lankin was a United States Army veteran. He passed away after a battle with cancer in 2008.

Brian Lankin decided to do something to memorialize his father.

"Me and City Hall said let's donate 100 to 200 pairs a year in my dad's honor," he said.

Lankin, who also wanted to pay tribute to his late mother, made the shoe donation a reality. And he kept stepping back into his charitable shoes year after year.

"It was just a private thing between me and the city and the Army and the Amish," said Lankin. "And then my friends wanted me to make it public in 2018."

Lankin relied on his friends and other partners to raise the funds to make such donations possible. He later partnered with Bombas, an apparel brand, to secure donations of socks.

Now, donations are made year-round to organizations like the Vineland Soup Kitchen, Society of St. Vincent DePaul, and most recently at the New Jersey Veterans Memorial Home at Vineland.

There, veterans like Sheila Hollman were grateful to receive new shoes and handbags.

"I thank everybody involved doing that, especially Al's Shoes," said Hollman. "I'm from Vineland, so, when I went to my prom in 1960, I went to Al's Shoes and had my shoes dyed to match my prom gown."

Other veterans like Joe Dacy are filled with joy when they receive donations such as these. Paired with the quality of life he receives at the New Jersey Veterans Memorial Home at Vineland, he feels like vets are truly not forgotten.

"You know, wake up in the morning, the first thing you put on is your shoes," he said. "So, you know, it's a beautiful gift."

In the future, Brian Lankin hopes the effort will grow to help more people get their hands, or feet, on a new pair of shoes.

"It's bigger than me now," he said. "Thanksgiving and Christmas, I'm bringing more. 100%."

To learn more about Al's Shoes, visit their Facebook page.

RELATED: Pa. couple sends thousands of sneakers to troops overseas

Sneakers for Soldiers started as a gesture of motherly love. Now, it is a volunteer operation to send shoes to thousands of military members in imminent danger zones.