Despite the snow and slick roads on Dec. 17, Rep. Robert Lancia (District 16) and his wife Maryann held their successful sneaker/shoe drive, Hope for the Holidays for the Gotta Have Sole Foundation, at Panera Bread in Chapel View, Cranston.
Rep. Lancia recalls how this event began two years ago.
“It was a rare day for me, I was home, had the television on, tuned to, of all things, Kathie Lee and Hoda. Just then my phone rang. It was an elderly constituent telling me I needed to get the young man sitting between the two celebrities up to the State House. But who was he?” said Lancia.
After a little bit of investigation Rep. Lancia found out the young man was Nicholas Lowinger, an individual who decided at age 12, to start his own foundation called Gotta Have Sole. He and his family reside in Lancia’s district.
“Since that time, he, his mom Lori and his dad Danny have become special friends,” said Rep. Lancia. “I also decide to help them by doing an annual end of the year event, Hope for the Holidays.”
Because Lancia holds his end of month coffees at Panera Bread in Cranston, he asked the management if he could do the annual event there too.
“They have been more than accommodating,” said Rep. Lancia. “This year, following the election, my wife and I decided to go door to door with over 20,00 thank you holiday cards and a flyer advertising our event. Despite the snowy day, a lot of great folks came out to support us.”
“Today my husband and I represented our son, Nicholas, at the event that Rep. Robert Lancia and his wife, Maryann so generously hosted at Panera Bread,” said Lori Lowinger.
Nicholas is currently a freshman at NYU's Stern School of Business. He is also the founder of Gotta Have Sole Foundation, a 501c3 charity he started in 2010 when he was 12 years old through which he donates brand-new footwear to children living in homeless shelters across America.
To date, Gotta Have Sole has given new shoes to over 56,000 homeless children in all 50 states. There are currently 15 Gotta Have Sole clubs in schools around the country that Nicholas mentors to educate their schools about the true face of homelessness and has given new shoes to children in homeless shelters in their own community.
The Gotta Have Sole clubs program is helping to bridge the gap between homeless and non-homeless children and to create a more inclusive community. Nicholas hopes to continue to partner with schools around the country and to establish many more Gotta Have Sole clubs.
“While Nicholas is in school, my husband and I run the day-to-day operations. We are affectionately known as 'Sole Mom' and 'Sole Dad,’” said Lowinger.
Along with Rep. Lancia and the Lowingers, “Hope Man,” Miss Black Teen Rhode Island Talented Teen, Mrs. Rhode Island greeted all those who stopped in to donate.
“Nicholas and his vision to outfit homeless children with new shoes for the holidays. People of all ages brought brand-new sneakers to support the cause, amounting to 34 pairs, with additional pairs expected to be collected throughout this week at the Glen Hills Elementary School. Additionally, $160 in cash donations was collected,” said Lowinger. “These cash and footwear donations will help us come that much closer to our goal of outfitting 650 homeless children with new shoes for the holidays. And, thanks to the generous support of one of our private donors, every dollar that is contributed on our Classy campaign page will be doubled with a matching grant of up to $5,000. To unlock these funds, we need to raise an additional $1,530 before the end of the year.”
The link to the campaign page is www.classy.org/campaign/gotta-have-sole-holiday-giving/c106965. For more information on the Gotta Have Sole Foundation, visit www.gottahavesole.org.