Do you know someone Paying It Forward in the community? Send your nominations to payitforward@wsav.com.

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – The saying goes something like, “The shoes make the man.”

It’s a mantra, of sorts, if you will. But, at a small clothing shop on Bay Street — it’s a lifestyle.

“For me, it’s become my life passion, to be totally honest. Really providing what this culture is — sneakers and vintage clothing and streetwear — to the city,” said Joshua McCray, who owns Off The Wave.

Sneakers and streetwear are a movement, a shift in a style, a definition of a generation. For McCray, his store is that and more — and more than an income.

“I always saw myself as more than just being an owner of a store. You can sell things forever, right? But you’re just selling things,” McCray said. “I think when you really connect with your community is when you really live forever and your work really shows forever.”

Since starting his shop in Savannah a few years ago, he’s seen the highest of ups and the lowest of lows. 

Last year, thieves broke into his store and stole most of his stock. But McCray rebuilt and turned his passion into a community beyond the newest kicks and rarest threads while never stopping his mission.

“Our role here as a store and for me as the owner of the store is being a mentor, a big brother, an uncle — whatever you want to call it,” McCray said.

The Bay Street storefront has become a catalyst of community collaboration by bringing out some of Savannah’s most talented and giving exposure to the city’s young creators.

“When I was in college here, I always wanted mentors to open up doors for us, to open opportunities for us to showcase our talents. The fashion shows are really big on highlighting local talent and letting them put their fashion on display for the city to see,” McCray said.

His vision to make the Hostess City a better place doesn’t start and stop inside the boutique’s walls. McCray also teaches some of Savannah’s kids every day at Derenne Middle School.

“We’re so fortunate to be able to have a teacher like Mr. McCray,” said DeRenne Middle School principal Tammy Broadnax.

Inside the halls of the school, McCray saw a chance to use his passion to make sure these students could pursue what they love.

“He has a really good bond for them, which has then turned out to be great for the academics. His students have grown the most in our building from the beginning of the year to the end of the year,” Broadnax told WSAV.

To start the school year, McCray took sneaker donations. Every single one of them became part of the school’s bigger picture to make sure kids have what they need to succeed without worry and free of charge.

“When he took from his store, got his customers to help build in, it just took our, maybe, 10 pairs of shoes to a whole other level,” said Broadnax. “We were able to service a lot more students because of his efforts.”

McCray plans to keep giving back and paying it forward one new pair of shoes at a time.

“Sneakers are a big part of school. It’s a big part of kid’s confidence,” he said. “If we can help with bringing confidence to kids and making them feel good about themselves in any kind of way, we’ll always and forever try to do that.”

McCray is aiming to give away at least 100 pairs of shoes before the upcoming school year. If you’d like to help out or check out the store, you can visit the shop’s Instagram page @offthewave912, linked here.