In his own way, Geronimo Lerma III helps those in need regain their footing.
The founder and executive director of Footprints of Michigan started the nonprofit in 2014 after witnessing how a gesture as small and simple as giving someone a better pair of shoes can significantly alter an outlook and attitude. Lerma left his job of 12 years in 2018 to devote himself full time to Footprints of Michigan, which distributes new and gently used footwear to Greater Lansing’s population in need of assistance.
More than a charitable act, Lerma’s endeavor provides comfort and decency to residents facing some of the worst struggles and hardships in life. He does it all without drawing a salary, relying on volunteers, fundraisers, and likeminded community members with open hearts and open minds to make it happen.
Knowing a man of such compassion walks among us made it easy to name Footprints of Michigan as the Nonprofit of the Year in the 2021 Greater Lansing Entrepreneurial Awards.
“Winning this award is such a great honor — what started out as a dream in the attic of my parents’ house has become reality and is growing each day,” Lerma said. “There is no better feeling in this world than to know you have made a lasting footprint in someone’s life. The countless hours our volunteers give to prepare the footwear or setting up at an event is a blessing. This just shows that when you work hard for something and you have a vision, don’t let anything stop you. Your work speaks for itself. Any of us can make a ‘soleful’ footprint in the lives of others, so do your part and let’s make this world just a little bit better.”
Many of the people who receive support from Footprints of Michigan make it a priority to give back, often reciprocating by volunteering countless hours in the nonprofit’s warehouse cleaning, sorting and even delivering shoes to shelters or events. The nonprofit regularly collaborates with numerous organizations in its efforts, such as Homeless Angels, Two Men and a Truck, Boy Scouts of America, Men Making a Difference, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6132, Playmakers and the Ingham County Sheriff’s Department.
Lerma said he has no plans of slowing down anytime soon.
“We will continue to assist those in need in the state of Michigan,” Lerma said. “We would like to obtain some larger grants to sustain operational costs along with a possible building fund so that we may have our own building with enough space to store the items we need. We are also working on a 2022 tour, Footprints Across America, where we will go across the country and give footwear to those in need in different states and bring awareness to communities hardest hit in small towns — showing what the power of giving one pair of shoes can do to a person.”