This 22-year-old is on a mission to provide homeless youth with footwear

Nicholas Lowinger is the founder of Gotta Have Sole, a Rhode Island-based charity that provides sneakers to kids in need around the U.S.

When Lowinger was 5 years old his parents had him volunteer at a homeless shelter. It was formative experiences like this that allowed him, now 22, to see how children were affected by poverty just a few blocks from his home. Lowinger noticed that the kids at the shelter had no footwear and if they did it was often worn for wear or ill-fitting. Soon after, Gotta Have Sole was born. 

“I didn’t need to go halfway across the world to see poverty, I could see it right in my own backyard,” Lowinger told In The Know. “It really touched me a lot, seeing kids who didn’t have the same opportunities I had and I found out that a lot of that was because they didn’t have adequate footwear. I assumed that footwear was just a given, everyone should have sneakers.”

Since 2010, Gotta Have Sole has provided footwear like Nike, Reebok and New Balance sneakers, to 103,000 kids across the country. The charity also works with 180 shelters. 

“Footwear is so important because it gets you from point A to point B,” Lowinger said. “For kids, it gets them to school, it allows them to, you know, have an education and play and have fun, which is such a key part of being a kid.” 

When Gotta Have Sole provides a child with a pair of sneakers they also receive a pair of socks and a custom notecard. 

“Families are often going from shelter to shelter so there’s a real lack of continuity in their relationships,” he said. “So by having someone show them even through a card that they care about them is huge.” 

Gotta Have Sole has numerous ways that you can contribute including donating, running, volunteering from home and card-decorating. 

“I really do believe that as young people we can make an enormous difference,” Lowinger said. “All we have to do is take action.”

If you found this story insightful, read about the Paralympic medalist who coached a toddler’s first walk with a prosthetic leg.

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