Four years ago, Samuel Bistrian left his job at Neiman Marcus, sold his car and sold many of his possessions to follow his dream of giving back to the children of his native Romania. Armed with a background in retail, Bistrian then founded Roma Boots, a rainboot company with the mission of “giving poverty the boot” by donating a pair of rubber boots to a Romanian child for every pair sold.
Last Thursday night, dozens of Bistrian’s friends and customers gathered at Roma Boots’ Dallas headquarters at the Shops at Park Lane to celebrate the company’s fourth birthday. Never a company to leave philanthropy out of a celebration, Roma Boots’ birthday party included a school supply drive. A table featured rubber boots stuffed with school supplies, and guests piled packs of paper, pencils and crayons all around. The flagship store/art gallery featured works by local artists brightening its walls, with all proceeds benefitting the Roma Boots Foundation.
Though Bistrian emigrated from Romania to the United States as a young child, he kept images of the poverty he had witnessed close to his heart. During his trips back to Romania, he saw children walking in knee-deep snow without protective footwear, and he learned that the kids sometimes lost toes to frostbite. Bistrian began sending donations of clothing and footwear to Romanian charitable organizations, but realized his impact could grow even larger after a serendipitous meeting with TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie at the Dallas Neiman Marcus store where Bistrian was working. “Blake told me that he was focusing on Argentina and Ethiopia,” Bistrian said. “I knew of a similar need in cold climates in Eastern Europe, where so many street children and orphans are at risk for frostbite.”
Bistrian decided that rubber boots were the most practical footwear solution for these kids. “Having grown up in a small village in Romania, I walked to school, played and did my chores outside until my feet were frozen,” he said. “I also remember that one of my favorite winter gifts was a pair of rubber boots passed down from my three older brothers.”
To date, the company has donated thousands of pairs of boots, but Roma Boots isn’t limiting its impact to footwear. “On Christmas Eve 2010, we made our first boot drop,” Bistrian said. “And the Dallas Police Department provided coloring books and crayons for us to give as well. You could just see it- the way those coloring books inspired these Gypsy Romani kids who don’t go to school.”
Since then, an educational initiative has become an integral part of the company’s mission. “By giving school supplies, we teach self-sufficiency,” Bistrian said, “And we teach giving because we encourage them to pass their boots down to other children.” In fact, the company recently changed factories in order to significantly improve the quality of their boots, hoping greater longevity would enable more children to enjoy each pair of boots.
While Bistrian’s impact on impoverished children has been significant, he believes that we all have the potential to positively impact the world. “I think it’s imperative that we give,” Bistrian said. “Some of the happiest people I’ve met are the biggest givers.”
People often ask him how they can help with Roma Boots’ mission. He lists the three best ways to get involved as “1. Buy a pair of boots. 2. Share with your friends what we’re doing. 3. Consider coming on one of our boot drops and experiencing the joy of giving a pair of boots to these children.”
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8060 Park Lane Ste, 126