Derrick Walton knows what it feels like to be homeless, sleep in abandoned cars and not have enough, if anything, to eat. Therefore, when he established Chef D’s Rock Power Pizza in January 2014 in Des Moines, Iowa, he pledged to shut down his restaurant once a week to help in feeding the homeless.
“I made a promise that if I ever got in a position where I could help somebody, I would give something back,” Walton told Yahoo’s Good News blog.

Although Walton can’t really afford to close his restaurant one night a week, he continues to do so to make sure anyone who needs food can get it – for free.

On April 2, 2014, Walton was invited on the Ellen Degeneres Show and she gave him $10,000 for his cause. Ellen has been partnering with Bank of America to highlight people who give back to their communities. When she heard of Walton, she was touched by his story and wanted to help him get the word out about his restaurant.

Walton grew up in Detroit in a household of eight kids and he learned to cook from his mother. After going to culinary school, Walton said he made some bad choices that landed him homeless.

“It put me in a position where I needed help from others, but the doors were always closed,” he recalls. “I made a promise that if I ever got in a position where I could help somebody, I would give something back.”

After saving up money from a dish washing job and later a line cook, Walton was able to open Chef D’s Pizza. And now, the $10,000 check from Ellen will help him continue to be able to keep his doors open for the homeless on Monday nights.

Iowa is home to almost 3,000 homeless people. The state has a poverty rate of 12.7%. With poverty often comes food insecurity and Walton is doing a small part to alleviate hunger in the homeless population of Des Moines.

– Haley Sklut

Sources: Ellen, The Huffington Post, Yahoo, Spotlight on Poverty
Photo: LiftBump

According to a report from the National Center on Family Homelessness, in 2010 there were more than 1.6 million homeless children across the span of the U.S.

Lacking any sort of permanent residency, these children often stay on the streets, in shelters, motels, cars and abandoned buildings.

At the age of five, a young boy by the name of Nicholas Lowinger visited a homeless shelter with his mother. His excitement to show his new light-up sneakers to the other children was apparent, but his mother advised him not to do so.

After interacting with the children at the shelter, Nicholas soon realized that they were living under conditions quite different from his own. Lowinger recalls seeing children whose shoes were tattered, worn, and falling apart. Or there were the extremely unfortunate individuals who had no shoes at all.

Now the age of 15, Nicholas says, “I have been very fortunate to grow up in a family that is able to provide me with whatever I need. A lot of kids here in the U.S don’t have the same opportunities.”

Following this visit Nicholas began to donate his older shoes to local shelters. Although he made an effort, he soon realized that his donations were not as helpful as he had hoped.

Due to the lasting impression that his first visit to a homeless shelter left and his desire to make a difference, at the age of 12, Nicholas began a program that donates new shoes to children who are homeless.

“Homeless children shouldn’t have to worry about how they’ll be accepted or how they’ll fit in,” Nicholas said. “They shouldn’t have to worry about not being able to play sports or go to school because they don’t have a pair of shoes.”

Initially, the program began as a part of a community service project, building up to his bar mitzvah. Noticing the difference that was being made, though, Nicholas wanted to ensure that the program would go on even after his bar mitzvah ceremony ended.

With the assistance of his parents, Nicholas began the Gotta Have Sole Foundation. Since it’s start-up, this organization has provided more than 10,000 children with new footwear, in over 21 states.

“New shoes can make a child feel good about him or herself. They gain confidence; they’re able to do better in school,” Nicholas said.

In the Lowinger family garage, one would find an abundance of new shoes that have been donated by footwear companies, stores, and individuals. Any size or style that they do not already have is acquired through the organizations monetary donations.

Over 1,000 volunteers help with this organization, and Nicholas himself works 15 hours a week on it. Nicholas thoroughly encourages young individuals to not allow their age to get in the way of achieving their dreams.

– Samaria Garrett

Sources: CNN, Gotta Have Sole
Photo: 100k Homes