I am a connector, or so I’ve been told. Bringing people together brings me great joy, and bringing people together who do great work, to make our world better, is simply THE best! This weekend, I had the privilege of being with an uber connector, my friend Molly Yuska of Project Giving Kids.
Project Giving Kids is the ultimate example of what happens when people collaborate, to simply do good for others. PGK’s mission is to cultivate empathy in children by connecting them to age-appropriate service opportunities at a critical time in their development.
This past weekend, Molly brought together over eighteen non-profits under one roof, to celebrate their work and what happens when we all work towards a common goal. Everyone from food pantries, to animal shelters, environmental causes and everything in between. It was an evening to celebrate collaboration and so many non-profits and their selfless work.
The night’s honoree was eighteen year old Nicholas Lowinger, of Gotta Have Sole. A non-profit founder, at the age of 13, who has now provided shoes for over 20,000 homeless children across 47 states. It was a night to be reminded how one person CAN make a difference and that connecting good is what truly matters.
This past weekend I attended a party for an East Coast non-profit that is heading to LA, which is an unusual move in the non-profit world. There are so many things that make Project Giving Kidsunusual, and by that I mean, out of the ordinary and extraordinary. Most of that comes from the amazing founder, Molly Yuska.
I met Molly a few months back interviewing her for CM and knew instantly that she was extraordinary. Her mission is to teach, expose and connect busy families and children to fun, meaningful and age appropriate service activities. She does that by partnering with local (now LA based) non-profits that vary from Healing the Bay to Food for Free and Gotta Have Sole, just to name a few.
Molly is an uber connector but more than that she is passionate about instilling the values of compassion and kindness in her children and ours. She shared a story Saturday night that said it all. Molly told the crowd that her young children wanted to have a lemonade stand a few weeks back. Molly groaned, as they had just done one.
Molly asked her children, “What would you give the money too?”
Her child’s response was,” I don’t want to charge money, I want to give the lemonade away.”
Molly, ” Why would you have a lemonade stand for free?”
Her daughter’s answer,” To spread love and kindness.”
That is exactly what Molly is doing, spreading love and kindness. Two things that world can never have enough of. So welcome to Los Angeles Project Giving Kids! Thank you for bringing all of us more love and kindness.
I have the privilege of working with amazing high school students all the time. The story I am about to share with you really hit a chord with me. This summer at the leadership camp I organize, a young girl arrived with shoes that were literally falling apart. We could tell she was embarrassed by her shoes but the reality was she couldn’t run and play games with the sole flapping around. So we used a little shoe goo, some fun colorful duct tape and made her smile and love her overhauled shoes. We saw first hand how much she wanted to fit in and the power of a simple pair of shoes.
An amazing young man, named Nicholas Lowinger, had the same realization as a very young boy visiting a homeless shelter. Nicolas saw first hand children who missed school because they shared shoes with their siblings and it wasn’t their day to wear them, so they couldn’t go to school. So Nicholas began donating shoes and clothing to the shelter but he knew these children needed new shoes that fit correctly.
A few years later, in 2010, when Nicholas had his Bar Mitzvah he used the opportunity to begin the Gotta Have Sole Foundation to donate new footwear to homeless children. Nicholas said, “My goal is to reach as many children living in homeless shelters in the US as I can. It has always been my hope that the children will feel more confident about themselves because they have new shoes to call their own and that they will have the same opportunities afforded to them as their peers.”
Today, four years later Nicholas has donated new footwear to over 10,000 children in homeless shelters in 35 states throughout the United States. Rather than rest on his achievements Nicholas keeps expanding his program. He recently established SOLEdiers to assist disabled and needy veterans and their families, in honor of his WWII Veteran grandfather. This program provides veterans with gift cards to footwear stores so they can select the shoes they need, for their children.
Nicholas Lowinger is truly inspirational. While his peers are out running around in their new sneakers, he continues to expand his mission of providing new shoes to as many homeless children as possible. This inspiring young man elevates the meaning of Gotta Have Sole.