Honorees in the News

The Herald News: Durfee students get their feet in the door for jobs

Original Story published by The Herald News

Nicholas Lowinger with shoe recipient
Nicholas Lowinger founded Gotta Have Sole, which provides shoes to homeless children

FALL RIVER — People who notice the clothing of others, including bosses looking to hire help, often look at the shoes of the applicant as an indication of how well he or she prepared for the interview. Other things count, of course, but so do the shoes.

On Friday, at a room off the library at B.M.C. Durfee High School, an organization called Gotta Have Sole gave a roomful of kids shoes, dress shoes and sneakers. New. With socks.

Of course, there wasn’t a roomful of shoes on hand, just a sampling. To get to the shoes, the kids would first have to have their feet measured, and shoes in their size would arrive soon after.

Lori and Dan Lowinger spoke to the kids, kids enrolled in the Jobs for America’s Graduates class, where students getting ready to leave high school can learn a variety of job-finding skills, from making a business plan to making a good first impression.

Gotta Have Sole sprang from the urge of Nicholas Lowinger, the son of Lori and Dan, who saw the need very young, but who began actively recruiting sponsors and donors after the age of 13.

“It was a dream of his to provide people with the shoes they needed,” Lori Lowinger said.

His parents helped Nicholas set up a charitable corporation, and the shoes have been flowing ever since. Some people and organizations give monetary donations but Gotta Have Sole has succeeded in getting in-kind donations from shoe business giants like Reebok, Stride Rite, Puma, Birkenstock and others.

The program began in Rhode Island with the gifting of 400 shoes in 2010, but since that time, students who need shoes for job interviews and other facets of life have received 76,000 pairs of shoes.

“It’s all run out of our garage,” said Lori Lowinger. “We don’t have a big fancy office.”

After that, the Lowingers showed the class a video of Nicholas Lowinger explaining the foundation’s work, which has branched out into the awarding of $1,000 scholarships.

The JAG program, run at Durfee by Louis Culotta, a job specialist with that organization, tries to equip students with the skills needed to get, and keep, good jobs.

“I brought this program here,” Culotta said, adding that students are currently working on modern-day business necessities like LinkedIn profiles and resumes.

Clothes don’t make the man or the woman, but they can help you become the man or woman you want to be, and Gotta Have Sole helped a couple dozen Durfee students get closer to that goal this week.

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