Gotta Have Sole’s 9th Birthday
It feels like just yesterday when the concept for Gotta Have Sole was born. Nicholas, my husband and I were discussing what he was going to do for a community service project for a religious coming-of-age ceremony. We asked Nicholas to think about what he was already doing that he could improve upon, and his eyes lit up as he exclaimed, “I’ve wanted to give homeless children new shoes for almost my entire life! I’m going to start a business called Gotta Have Sole and give homeless children in RI the new shoes they deserve!”
That was in November of 2009. Nicholas formulated his ideas and mission for Gotta Have Sole which was formally launched as a nonprofit on February 19, 2010. That year, he made connections within his community, including members of his congregation, local schools and businesses, friends and family who were instrumental in collecting loads of new shoes to be given to children living in homeless shelters in RI. He sent numerous letters to footwear manufacturers and retailers that joined his cause and donated new shoes and sneakers. That year, 400 children received new footwear, many for the first time in their lives. Many, who now had their own shoes and no longer had to share them with a sibling. Many, who finally had shoes that fit and could join their peers not just on the basketball floor but also on a tiled school floor, no longer falling behind because they finally had the footwear they needed to get to school.
Orders kept rolling in, and so did volunteers of all ages, from elementary school-aged children, to college students, to business professionals, to retirees. And just like that Gotta Have Sole was powered from this organic momentum of people from across the country, joining in to Gotta Have Sole’s mission to improve the lives of homeless children.
Since our founding in 2010, Gotta Have Sole Foundation has served 160 shelters in all 50 states; GHS has donated over 99,000 pairs of new shoes to 98,250 children, and we’re on track to reach over 100,000 children by the spring of this year.
In addition to growing our reach through our shoe delivery program, we have also expanded our programs to provide more opportunities to engage with young people at multiple levels of impact, as well as to create opportunities for young people to participate in leadership opportunities. At the core of our organization, Gotta Have Sole works to end the cycle of homelessness by addressing the needs of children who are experiencing homelessness. As we’ve grown and worked more with these young people, we’ve also developed a desire to do more, by creating new programs that offer deeper engagement and provide additional support services alongside those new shoes. This has led to the expansive growth of our Clubs Program, and to the development of our new College Ambassador Program. Through this focus on these deep engagement programs, we are not just providing shoes, but we are creating curriculum and content that helps homeless children to succeed in school with a better set of social, academic and life skills. We are also providing an avenue for youth leaders to engage in their own communities and build leadership skills while giving back in a sustainable and measurable way. We encourage you to learn more about these programs as we will be sharing more updates as these programs continue this Spring.
Our impact is growing each year, as we Our Clubs have:
238 Club Members in 30 Gotta Have Sole Clubs across the country
Directly impacted over 28,000 homeless children in need through their club activities
Indirectly impacted 101,490 of their peer students and community members through their club activities and awareness campaigns in their schools and communities
Additionally, our Scholarships have grown year over year, and we’ve received over 8,000 applications for the fifteen scholarships that we’ve given out to date. The scholarships themselves have had a huge impact for their recipients and we’ve received many testimonials attesting to this, including this note from Malaika who won a scholarship in 2016:
“Let me sincerely say, thank you so much. Your generous contribution to my education allowed me to become involved in my campus community without the burden of taking out student loans or working inconvenient and tiring jobs just to stay afloat. Your scholarship allowed me to experience the full depth and breadth of a college education. The happiness and fulfillment I have experienced is unprecedented, and I feel the utmost gratitude for the role your foundation has played in my success. Your scholarship has empowered and emboldened me to utilize my work ethic and resources to make the most of my education, and to take advantage of every opportunity that comes my way.”
- Malaika, Scholarship Recipient
Thank you to all of our supporters, donors, friends and family, you have helped us to grow Gotta Have Sole to reach so many families in need across the United States. We are so grateful for your support and love the opportunity to share these updates with you.
All the best,