Kate Swanson always knew she’d have to find funding for her college education. But when Swanson’s father lost his job in a series of layoffs, the need became much more pressing than she initially anticipated.
Enter Two Ten, which awarded Swanson the aid she needed.
“[The foundation] has been an absolutely huge help for my family and me,” said Swanson, now a senior at Northeastern University who will graduate in December. “My brother was in school, too, so college was a big challenge for my parents.
It’s so much easier knowing that I’m financially secure. It’s taken the stress of money off of me.”
Two Ten’s offerings go far beyond need-based academic scholarships. From design grants to veterans’ aid, the organization has focused on finding new avenues to support young people as well as continuing education in the shoe business.
More than 300 people in the shoe industry receive some form of aid from Two Ten annually. Scholarships are available for students who have been in the shoe industry — or whose parents have been — for at least two years.
“It’s important that we’re helping people on a variety of fronts,” said Beverly Goldberg, VP at Florsheim and a member of the Two Ten scholarship committee. “If we want the best talent in the industry, that means supporting education [and shoe-design programs]. The scholarship committee supports academic and training scholarships because both are important.”
Two Ten introduced its first design award in 2003. Five years later, the Ars Sutoria scholarship — which allows students to participate in a specialized shoe-manufacturing and design course — followed.
On the executive side, Two Ten has teamed up with companies from Pensole to Boardroom Rockstars to help provide ongoing education to members of the industry.
Footwear Warriors, launched in 2013, has been one of the organization’s biggest initiatives. Spearheaded by Kevin Donahue, chairman and CEO of Quabaug Corp., the fund aims to support veterans. The $250,000 initial endowment was one of the largest ever for Two Ten.
Earlier this month, Two Ten kicked off the Footwear Warriors Phase II Campaign, a three-month fundraising effort in support of the Footwear Warriors program. The goal is to raise $60,000 by Feb. 28, which would bring the scholarship fund’s total to $360,000.
“There are so many worthy causes to support, but it can become overwhelming,” said Martin Berman, managing director of Micro-Pak Ltd. “Even ‘scholarships’ can be a somewhat overwhelming topic. By focusing on veterans or specific areas of the industry, donors can easily connect with causes and may be more willing to give.”
Moving forward, the organization hopes to increase donations from companies in the industry. Goldberg said Two Ten is also focusing on getting the word out about its programs more regularly and with a more concentrated effort.
“Scholarships are tremendously important,” Berman said. “For some students, these scholarships mean the difference between attending or not attending college. For others, it means being able to graduate with a manageable amount of debt.”
Career development has become an increasingly important focus for Two Ten in the past several years.
The Young Professionals group was established in 2009. It sponsors a variety of events each year, from fireside chats with industry experts to festive, casual parties. Now the group boasts about 1,000 members.
“YP210 was established as a powerful way to connect emerging leaders in the industry,” said Danny Muskat, national sales manager of Deer Stags and a Two Ten board member who leads the YP210 program.
In the coming years, Muskat said, the YP branch will do more to help Two Ten expand its influence. The group wants to promote small-donor giving, develop small-business support, and tap into microfinance opportunities. YP210 also aims to grow nationally, with regional chapters on the West Coast and across the country.
“We want YP to work toward becoming a group that is self-sustaining,” Muskat said. “We want to [build] the same momentum that other branches of Two Ten have, such as Women in Footwear.”