Nicholas Lowinger, the extraordinary teenager gets shoes for the kids in homeless shelters

nicholas lowinger gotta have sole

While most of the students are so busy concentrating on their school work and having fun with their friends that they don’t even have time to watch the news, there are a few young people who are so passionate about making the world a better place, that they find out the time to stand up for what they believe in and do something about it. 16 years old Nicholas Lowinger is one such impressive young individual, who started donating brand-new footwear for the infants, children and teens who were living in homeless shelters; thus changing the world in his own unique way.

The new face of American poverty has been often that of a child’s.  This is because, 1 out of every 3 children in USA is poor, living at or below the federal poverty level. While the country ranks first in Gross Domestic Product and leads the world in its number of billionaires, it ranks near the bottom of the pack of wealthy nations on the measure of child poverty. With 32.2 percent of children living below this line, U.S. ranks 36th out of the 41 wealthiest countries as per the UNICEF report.

Poverty involves material and social deprivation. Socio-economic status has a direct impact on the educational performances. Not only do poor kids have a higher chance of going to school hungry, they are more likely to be bullied for their tattered clothes and shoes. And if their shoes don’t fit, poor kids will miss out the activities that most of us take for granted – like playing sport. Nicholas Lowinger founded his organization, Gotta Have Sole, Inc., in an effort to provide children living in shelters, with brand-new footwear. For him, having a comfy pair of shoes is as important as having just the right size of clothing.

New shoes can make a child feel good about him or herself. They gain confidence; they’re able to do better in school, Nicholas said.

Though the company was initially established as a community service project for his Bar Mitzvah that was in November 2010, but Nicholas Lowinger has continued this charitable service. Today, it is a smooth-running operation, driven by the Lowinger family and a team of motivated volunteers, who fill orders from homeless shelters across the US within two to three days of receiving requests. Since its creation, Gotta Have Sole has donated new shoes to more than 23,500 kids in 35 states across the United States and it’s on the way to help a lot more people.

nicholas lowinger gotta have sole

The story behind the formation of Nicholas Lowinger’s  ‘Gotta Have Sole’

When he was just 5 years old, Nicholas Lowinger’s mother, an art therapist, took him to volunteer at a homeless shelter. She wanted Nicholas to see how other people live and ultimately be more appreciative of everything that he had. While there, Nicholas wanted to show off his new light up shoes. However, with his mom’s guidance, he realized this would not be a good idea. That is because when Nicholas looked around, many of the kids did not have shoes or had shoes, that were falling apart. Nicholas Lowinger then learned that some of the kids shared their shoes with other members of their family or missed school, because another family member was wearing the shoes that day. He noticed that some children had sores on their feet from wearing the shoes that were not of their size.

Nicholas Lowinger decided that he had to do something. When he reached home, he went through his shoes, separated the pairs he didn’t use often and donated them when he returned to the shelter. This experience led to an another realization. Nicholas Lowinger then started donating his used shoes and clothing to the homeless.

He believed, if he didn’t take steps to make a difference, no one would. A few years later, when he was 12 years old and when the time came to perform a service project for his Bar Mitzvah, Nicholas Lowinger knew exactly what he wanted to do. He already had the perfect project in mind. That is when his charity, Gotta Have Sole Foundation was born. His charity focuses on providing new shoes to homeless kids to give them something that not only fits them, but is truly theirs.

Although the base of the operation is the Lowinger family garage in Cranston, Rhode Island, the effort is extremely well-organized. Shelters turn in orders for shoes and Nicholas Lowinger and his volunteers fill them using shoes provided by sponsors. If he doesn’t have the right shoes handy, Nicholas Lowinger bought them, using donations. If the shelters are local, Nicholas hands out the shoes in person.

In the beginning, Nicholas Lowinger focused on donating to a single shelter in his home state of Rhode Island. As the charity continued, Nicholas realized that there was a need to supply shoes not just across the state, but to the kids in every state and decided to try to meet that need. 

Awards and recognition to Nicholas Lowinger

Just after a year of  formation of his non-profit foundation Gotta Have Sole, Nicholas Lowinger started receiving awards and recognition for the work that he has been doing, below are a few of them:

  1. Rhode Island Jefferson Award, 2011
  2. Hasbro Community Action Hero Award, 2011
  3. Youth Leader Award from the Women’s Center of Rhode Island, 2011
  4. Rainbow Award from Street Sights, 2011
  5. Rhode Island Prudential Spirit of Community Award, 2012
  6. Presidential Volunteer Service Gold Level, 2012
  7. Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award, 2013
  8. Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award, 2013
  9. Myra Kraft Community MVP Award, 2013
  10. Youth Service Challenge Award, 2013
  11. 1st Prize in the Peace First Prize given by Peace a First, 2013
  12. CNN Hero Young Achiever, 2013
  13. Charlotte Bacon Act of Kindness Award, named after one of the children killed in the Newtown shootings, 2014
  14. Nickelodeon HALO Award

Check out Nicholas Lowinger’s amazing story below:

CNN Hero: Nicholas Lowinger

As the nonprofit foundation is growing, Nicholas Lowinger is acquiring unusual skills than someone of his age. He knows how to keep paperwork and finances organized-inventories, orders, grant requests, donations. He’s become skilled at dealing with business people who are making corporate donations of money or shoes.

One of the most enduring lessons Nicholas Lowinger has learned about business, however, did not come directly through experience, but from his grandfather who was a distributor of stationery products throughout Massachusetts. His grandfather taught him never to forget a simple act of customer courtesy: writing thank-you notes.

As per Nicholas Lowinger, the non-profit board will expand into the donations of adult shoes in the near future.  Nicholas Lowinger doesn’t allow his age to get in to the way of achieving his dreams and he encourages other young people to do the same. Nicholas Lowinger hopes to inspire other kids to go out into the world and make a difference.

No one is ever too young or old to help others. Kids don’t always realize that they have the power to make a difference. I urge other kids to find a passion, create big ideas and act. Kids can make a huge difference in this world.

Want to get involved?  Yes, you can be a part of Nicholas Lowinger’s noble task. To make a donation, or get involved in Gotta Have Sole, visit GottaHaveSole.org or their Facebook page.

Image Credit: CNNpeerspring

Kakoli Mahanta

Kakoli Mahanta

A post graduate in Economics, Kakoli Partha Mahanta worked for corporate finance sector for about 7 years. Mother of a cute 2 year baby girl, Kakoli is currently located in Bangalore, India, flourishing her writing skill.