RECENTLY NAMED a 2013 Global Teen Leader by the We Are Family Foundation, Nicholas Lowinger, 15, is looking to grow his nonprofit, Gotta Have Sole, from a 14-state footprint to operations in 26 states in 2013.
Fifteen-year-old Nicholas Lowinger has been in the news a lot recently. Inspired by visits his mother made to homeless shelters as an art therapist, Nicholas founded Gotta Have Sole Foundation, a nonprofit to supply homeless children with new shoes.
He has been on the Today Show for his work with the foundation and recently was named a 2013 Global Teen Leader by the We Are Family Foundation.
He took a little time out of his busy schedule to talk about the foundation, its future and his own career plans.
PBN: How many states is Gotta Have Sole operating in today? What kind of growth do you expect?
LOWINGER: Gotta Have Sole Foundation is currently donating new footwear to children in homeless shelters in 14 states within the United States. To date, I have donated footwear to well more than 7,000 children, giving them new footwear each time their feet grow. In 2010 my program was in shelters in Rhode Island only. In 2011 four states were added, and in 2012 nine additional states, totaling 14 altogether. This year, at this rate of growth, I hope to be able to add 12 more states. This will be determined with the amount of money we can raise and the amount of new footwear that is donated from footwear manufacturers.
PBN: Do you see Gotta Have Sole as the beginning of a larger effort to help children in homeless shelters get access to new clothes or do you want to keep it simple and concentrate on shoes?
LOWINGER: I imagine in the future, new clothing might be added, but my concentration at the moment is on new footwear.
PBN: What do you find is the biggest challenge in keeping Gotta Have Sole moving forward - fundraising, administrative issues, finding time to work on it or something else?
LOWINGER: While fundraising is always a challenge and is necessary for us to grow and serve more children in need, donated warehouse space as well as skilled volunteers to help with administration issues are two areas we could definitely use some assistance with.
PBN: Does your experience with Gotta Have Sole make you want to work in the nonprofit sector as you get older, or do you try not to think too far ahead?
LOWINGER: I definitely will be involved in the nonprofit sector, especially since I plan on continuing with Gotta Have Sole Foundation throughout my lifetime. But I would also like to go to law school and become an attorney.
PBN: Do you have any more ideas for a nonprofit or charity?
LOWINGER: I have two more programs that will be starting soon, under the Gotta Have Sole Foundation umbrella; one for military families and the other, for disadvantaged children who want to play tennis. These are in the works, as we speak.