TOMS takes steps to fight poverty

A Winthrop alumna and Community Relations and Grassroots manager with the organization TOMS came back to visit and share her success story with the students on Monday as a part of Mass Communication Week.

Allie Tsavdarides graduated with an IMC degree from Winthrop in 2004 and left to pursue her passion for helping people in developing countries.

“Every step of the way I was following what I thought I needed to do,” Tsavdarides said.

The organization she works for, TOMS, participates in a “one for one” system, meaning when a TOMS product is bought, TOMS gives back to someone in need in some way.

“We want to give stepping stones and tools to help people get out of the situations they are in,” Tsavdarides said.

Tsavdarides had the opportunity to join TOMS early on, in their third year, before they became the well-known company that it is today. When the company began, TOMS was donating 10,000 shoes to the United States and Argentina. They now donate millions of shoes to over 50 countries.

The original TOMS canvas shoe is based on the Argentine alpargata, a shoe commonly worn in Argentina. The TOMS flag that many people recognize with the blue bars across the bottom and top is actually the Argentinian flag, but with “TOMS” across the middle.

TOMS has retained the Argentine alpargata style to sell as a fashionable shoe, but have modified it to fit American trends. They have also added the Ethiopian canvas, winter boots and athletic shoes.

Recently, TOMS has started a new One for One campaign with a new line of eyewear. For every pair of TOMS glasses, the company will provide sight to an individual in need through prescription glasses, surgery or medical treatment.

Tsavdarides said TOMS idea for adding the eyewear to the “one for one” concept came about when they learned 285 million people in the world are blind or visually impaired, but 80% of them don’t have to be because there is a fix.

Tsavdarides is currently working with what is known as the Grassroots Campaign in TOMS. This campaign is to make people aware of the need for shoes and medical help in poorer countries with Ticket to Give, One Day Without Shoes and World Sight Day.

“These three programs focus on education and inspiration,” Tsavdarides said.

The Ticket to Give campaign offers people a chance to attend a trip with TOMS to donate shoes to a developing country by submitting a reason why they would like to be a part of the experience.

“Ticket to Give is about inspiring people, transforming people and getting them to think bigger than themselves,” Tsavdarides said.

This year’s One Day Without Shoes will be on April 16 and the World Sight Day will be in October. To learn more about TOMS, visit their website at www.toms.com.

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