By Jillian Risberg
COVID-19 has upended the very fabric of our existence, prompting four selfless Livingston High School juniors to create a life-changing opportunity with pairs of shoes.
It was during those long quarantine days that Nicki Depalma, Jamie Porigow, Lauren Belcuore and Becca Cullen created “Revamped Style,” a charitable organization that refurbishes old shoes for those in need.
“Being able to clean, decorate and donate hundreds of shoes allows us to create a huge impact not only in our community but worldwide,” says Depalma. “Knowing that our donations provide a physical pair of unique shoes — items of comfort to impoverished people and support for their businesses is an amazing feeling.”
At any age helping others, we help ourselves. The Revamped Style ladies are starting young.
“Helping others has always been something that I love to do,” Porigow says. “I’ve been volunteering at the friendship circle for a few years now and it warms my heart seeing the smile on the kids faces. I was also the president of the PB&J club at my school, which allowed me to take responsibility and become a leader.”
What does Nicki, Jamie, Lauren and Becca’s ‘new normal’ look like…
“Throughout the week we have a pretty consistent schedule when it comes to managing Revamped Style,” Belcuore says. “We collect and clean up the shoes on weekdays and come together every other Friday to band and ship out the shoes to allow the less fortunate to experience the excitement of getting a nice pair of shoes.”
When Soules4Souls got wind of what the Revamped Style ladies were doing; Lizzy Swiderski, director of operations for the New Jersey branch was all about it.
They have since connected to chat about their plans for teaming up together.
“We have stayed in touch with Lizzy through emails, Zoom and social media,” says Cullen. “Shipping our boxes of donations and receiving our impact letter from Soules4Souls is the best feeling in the world.”
By partnering with the nonprofit means doing something for the greater good outside of themselves.
“We are all fortunate to have essential items such as clothing, footwear, food supply, water and money for educational costs,” Nicki Depalma says. “I hope that through our donations we cannot only put a smile on the faces of those who receive them but give them that sense of comfort from these items we are so lucky to have.”
The power of their journey has not been lost on the ladies.
“Being able to make an impact in the world and people’s life,” says Depalma. “Now more than ever, whether big or small, it is important to get involved.”
When it comes to getting others to join their mission, social distancing and various protocols can present a challenge but the ladies remain committed to their endeavor regardless, reminded of the extreme struggles that so many are suffering.
According to Cullen, there are several ways to help — start with donating old shoes that will be cleaned up and/or redesigned, then sent out to Soles4Souls. Then follow the ladies’ Instagram or Facebook page to get updates/progress and help Revamped Style grow.
“Lastly, Livingston High School students can join the Revamped Style Club in September when school starts to contribute, clean and revamp shoes with us to donate,” Cullen says.
The pandemic granted the ladies a lot of time to contemplate.
“We understand that our commitment to this project is vital — as these issues in countries like Guatemala and Haiti are very pressing,” says Belcuore.
The ladies say they feel accomplished and proud about the impact Revamped Style has made.
“When we are able to return to school we are going to leave a donation box where people can leave their old shoes — we have donation boxes located in different towns around New Jersey and are striving to get more locations and boxes,” Porigow says. “We know the importance one shoe can make, which is why with our best efforts, we want to collect and donate the most amount of shoes as we can.”
With such altruistic and entrepreneurial spirits, the sky’s the limit for these four. Porigow says this entire journey has definitely helped her make a decision about her future.
“I have always been very passionate about helping others. I love giving my friends advice along with mentoring younger children,” she says. “Being a therapist or school guidance counselor sounds like an exciting job that allows me to do something I love to do the most.”
Collecting and revamping the shoes became very therapeutic for Cullen.
“It made me feel like I am able to do some good in the world during such a time of hysteria,” she says. “Never did I think I would be able to do something like this at my age, but with the help of my friends and Soles4Soles, it became possible.
“It has been an amazing experience and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Revamped Style.”
During this pandemic job opportunities have become less obtainable, causing more families to struggle.
“With the support of my friends, family and peers, we are able to collect and revamp so many shoes and help turn someone’s life around,” says Porigow.
At the end of the day, Lauren Belcuore loves being able to combine her passion for art while working towards a positive change.
“Living in an affluent community like Livingston, I believe we are very fortunate to have the ability to use our resources to help others,” says Belcuore. “These shoes that could be considered trash in one person’s eyes can be recycled into something that means the world to another.
“I think the beauty of Revamped Style is that it provides individuals an easy outlet to make a big difference,” she says.
To learn more about Revamped Style, visit @revamped.style on Instagram.