CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — The Lowinger garage could fit a car in a pinch, but not while it is still a shoe warehouse.
Nicholas Lowinger started the Gotta Have Sole Foundation when he was about 12-years old.
Young Nicholas is now a 21-year old senior majoring in Business at New York University (NYU).
“It started in this one closet,” Lowinger said. “Took over the next closet. Then, low and behold, the entire garage.”
The idea to collect donated, new shoes to give to homeless children started to take root when Lowinger was about 5 years old.
That’s when he made some friends at a local shelter, where his mom provided art therapy for children.
As a 15-year-old, three years into his non-profit’s history, Lowinger recalled noticing what his friends couldn’t do without shoes.
“They can’t go to school every day,” Lowinger said. “They can’t play sports with their friends. They couldn’t really be kids.”
About a decade later, Gotta Have Sole has provided more than 100,000 pairs of shoes to children in all 50 states.
“It’s been equally as impactful for me from the beginning through now,” Lowinger said.
The garage-based non-profit personalizes each shipment with a pair of socks and a personalized card created by other children.
“Kids feel like this was tailor-made for them,” Lowinger said. “It’s like a present.”
Running the non-profit with his mother’s help has been a real life education, but Lowinger said he will soon be applying his business degree to the future of Gotta Have Sole.
“We want to do more,” Lowinger said.
The organization is already teaching classes to children to help them in school in what Lowinger calls a “holistic” approach.
And something he said as a 15-year old, still applies today; Motivating others to pay the help they get from Gotta Have Sole forward.
“Hopefully when they’re older they’ll be able to say, hey, I remember when I was a kid and someone helped me,” Lowinger said. “Maybe I can help someone.”