© 2013 standinginthegapdallas

CNN POSTING OF A TEEN IN RHODE ISLAND GIVING LESS FORTUNATE KIDS SHOES

(Okay…Seems I will be doing a shoe drive also…It will be at one of the Networking Mixer….People need our help)

Teen gives shoes to 10,000 kids in
needBy Laura Klairmont, CNN
CNN Hero: Nicholas Lowinger
Cranston, Rhode Island (CNN) – At a young
age, Nicholas Lowinger learned not to take
things for granted.He was 5 years old and visiting a homeless
shelter with his mother, who works in various
shelters across Rhode Island. He was excited
for the opportunity to show off his new light-up sneakers to the rest of the kids. But his
mom cautioned him against doing so,
explaining that these children might not have
such luxuries.Sure enough, when Nicholas met kids at the
shelter, he quickly realized that they were
living in circumstances that were very different
from his own.”I saw other kids my age who looked just like
me. The only difference was, they were
wearing old, tattered shoes that were falling
apart. Some didn’t have a pair of shoes to call
their own,” said Nicholas, now 15. “I’ve been
very fortunate to grow up in a family that is
able to provide me with whatever I need. A lot
of kids here in the U.S. don’t have the same
opportunities.

“There were 1.6 million homeless children
across the United States in 2010, according to
a report from the National Center on Family
Homelessness (PDF). With no permanent
place to live, many stay on the streets or in
shelters, motels, cars and abandoned
buildings.”Homeless children, they shouldn’t have to
worry about how they’ll be accepted or how
they’ll fit in,” Nicholas said. “They shouldn’t
have to worry about not being able to play
sports or go to school because they don’t have
a pair of shoes.”That first shelter visit left a strong impression
on Nicholas, who started donating all the
shoes he’d outgrown to local shelters. But he
quickly realized that his donations, while well-intentioned, weren’t that helpful.”It bothered me that I only had used shoes to
give to them instead of new shoes that fit
right,” he said. “No two people’s feet are
identical, and if you are wearing someone
else’s worn shoes, your feet aren’t going to be
very comfortable.”So in 2010, at the age of 12, Nicholas started a
program that donates new shoes to homeless
children.At first, his efforts were part of a community
service project leading up to his bar mitzvah, a
Jewish coming-of-age ceremony. But he
wanted to ensure that the work would
continue after the ceremony.”I didn’t want to make one donation and stop
there,” he said. “I wanted it to be something I
could do for the rest of my life.”With the help of his parents, he then started
the Gotta Have Sole Foundation. Since 2010,
the organization has donated new footwear to
more than 10,000 homeless children in 21
states.”By giving new footwear to homeless children,
I’m making sure them and their families have
at least one less thing to worry about,”
Nicholas said. “I’m also allowing parents to
save money for an apartment or food for their
next meal.”Two years ago, Frencis Velasquez found
herself homeless with three young children.”It’s been difficult. Going from shelter to
shelter, meeting all these different people. My
kids didn’t have anything that was stable,” said
Velasquez, 23.Keeping up with the demanding needs of her
growing children presented additional
challenges.”I had to decide either to spend money on
shoes or medicine and diapers,” Velasquez
said. “I already felt horrible. Not being able to
provide them shoes made me feel even
worse.”Fortunately, the Rhode Island shelter where
she was living worked with the Gotta Have
Sole Foundation. Her children have now
received multiple pairs of shoes through the
organization.”Having new shoes makes them feel great,”
Velasquez said. “I remember when one of my
sons got his first pair, he was so excited that
he just started kissing the shoes. It makes me
feel awesome just knowing that they’re
happy.”Since starting this work, Nicholas has heard
many emotional stories.He remembers one 16-year-old boy who had
fled an abusive living situation with his
mother. They had to make a quick escape, so
the boy put on the first shoes he could get his
hands on: a pair of his mother’s old winter
boots.With no other shoes, the boy had to wear the
boots day in and day out. Not only were they
the wrong size, but his classmates made fun
of him for wearing women’s shoes. The boots
became a constant source of embarrassment
and discomfort until he received new footwear
from Nicholas’ nonprofit.”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.Nicholas also remembers a brother and sister
who had to share one pair of sparkly pink
sneakers.Each day, the siblings switched off wearing the
sneakers. When one went to school, the other
had to miss a day. The children fell behind in
their studies until they each received a new
pair of shoes from Nicholas’ group.”Something that seems so simple, a pair of
shoes, made the difference between getting an
education or not,” Nicholas said. “It’s more
than just giving them a new pair of shoes. …
That’s really what makes it so special for me.”The Lowinger family’s garage is full of new
shoes that have been donated by footwear
companies and stores. If they don’t already
have the specific size and style that a child
has requested, Nicholas uses the group’s
monetary donations to buy them. The shoes
are then shipped to the shelters or, whenever
possible, personally delivered by Nicholas.More than 1,000 volunteers have helped out
with the group. Nicholas works 15 hours a
week on the project — a time limit imposed by
his mother to ensure that he has enough time
for schoolwork and other activities.Nicholas said he doesn’t allow his age get in
the way of achieving his dreams, and he
encourages other young people to do the
same.”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,” he said. “I urge
other kids to find a passion, create big ideas
and act. Kids can make a huge difference in
this world.”

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