Gotta Have Sole Foundation Helping Children Get off on the Right Foot

I started Gotta Have Sole Foundation, Inc. in 2010 as part of my Bar Mitzvah project when I was 12 years old.  Through my charity, I donate brand-new footwear to children across America who are living in homeless shelters.

From a very young age, I started visiting homeless shelters and met children who were just like me, but lacked proper footwear, if they had any at all.  I knew I had to do something. I began donating my gently used footwear, but soon realized they were not the correct fit for the children because they were broken in to my own feet.  I was frustrated at being unable to give the children their correct sizes, so I created Gotta Have Sole with the mission of providing all homeless children living in shelters throughout the U.S. with new, properly fitting footwear to call their own.

To get the program started, I placed a bin in my temple, Temple Sinai, contacted corporations and private donors for support, and called shelters in RI for footwear orders.  Shoe donations came pouring in and our garage quickly turned into a warehouse!  What started out as an operation serving 400 children in Rhode Island, has quickly grown to a foundation serving over 11,000 children in 26 states.  My goal is to expand my footwear program into all 50 states by the time I graduate high school in 2016.

In addition to the footwear program for homeless children, I also launched two additional programs under the Gotta Have Sole umbrella.  One program is called, SOLEdiers, and was established in honor of my grandfather, Irwin Shulkin, who is a WWII veteran.  Through this program, we donate footwear retail store gift cards to disabled and impoverished veterans, while giving their children the new footwear they need.  The other new program is called Serving Love, through which we donate sporting footwear, specifically tennis at the moment due to my passion for the sport, to children from disadvantaged homes who want to play the sport.  Gotta Have Sole has partnered with an organization here in RI that gives free tennis lessons to children who would not otherwise be able to afford them.  Our donations give them the opportunity to play a sport they love while wearing the proper footwear.  My plan is to include the necessary footwear for other sporting programs when funding is secured.

I am humbled by the organizations that have awarded me for my volunteerism in my community and across the country.  Awards such as a 2011 Jefferson Award for Public Service, a 2011 Hasbro Community Action Hero Award from GenerationOn, a 2012 Huggable Hero from Build-A-Bear Workshop Foundation, a 2012 Prudential Spirit of Community Award, a 2013 Global Teen Leader, a 2013 Make A Difference Day National Honoree, a Myra Kraft Community MVP Award, a 2013 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award, a 2013 Barron Award for Young Heroes, a 2013 CNN Hero Award, a 2013 Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award by Muhammad Ali Center for the core principle of Giving, and a 2013 Peace First Prize and Fellowship by Peace First.  I do not assist the disadvantaged for any recognition and view these awards as vehicles in helping my program grow.  These awards have increased my corporate and private donor base, enabling me to help many more children in need.

Many people throughout RI and in other states support Gotta Have Sole.  They volunteer at numerous events we have throughout the year, sorting and packaging footwear, creating personalized cards for children in the shelters who are about to receive footwear, and sometimes making deliveries with us.  Additionally, many businesses hold fundraisers for us, like dress-down Fridays, collecting pocket change for a week’s time, making monetary contributions via a split raffle, and also holding new sneaker and new sock drives for us.  We have also had businesses sponsor a shelter during the holidays.

If anyone is interested in getting involved or wants to make a monetary or product donation, please visit the Gotta Have Sole Foundation website at www.gottahavesole.org, or email us at gottahavesole@gmail.com. You can also follow Gotta Have Sole on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/GottaHaveSoleFoundation.  Additionally, shelters can contact us at gottahavesole@gmail.com and we will be happy to serve your child residents.

 

Nick Lowinger
Founder
Gotta Have Sole Foundation, Inc.

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