A few years ago, Tom Costello Jr, founder and Chief Sock Person, and his wife were volunteering at a soup kitchen in Philadelphia. Here is the story Tom tells about that day that lead to the formation of The Joy of Sox® with the mission of simply providing socks for the homeless.
I was really homelessphobic to the point that I would cross the street to avoid facing a homeless person. I even didn’t want to go into the City for fear that I might come across someone homeless.
One year my wife dragged me to a shelter in the Germantown section of Philadelphia to help serve meals around Christmas. I had a mild panic attack in the parking lot. I didn’t want to get out of my car. Sweaty palms, rapid heart beat.
“So a homeless person getting some clothing from a charitable organization may get just about everything “ except socks.”
Somehow I survived the event and my blood pressure dropped the minute we left the facility and got back in my car and locked the doors.
On the way home my wife said she was talking to a podiatrist who was doing probono work at the shelter. The podiatrist said that the homeless rarely get donations of socks and have extensive foot problems due to the lack of clean socks. The podiatrist also explained the wide-ranging effects the lack of good podiatric health has upon the nationwide healthcare system in general.
Fast forward to another Christmas. The podiatrist’s story really resonated with me and I decided to try to overcome my irrational fear of the homeless and also try to do something good by handing out some socks.
We returned to the shelter and I began handing out socks at the end of the meal. I would say, “Merry Christmas, God Bless You,”” drop a pair of socks into their bag as they left.
I was doing this for a few minutes and actually getting used to the environment. Then a lady walked up to me. She didn’t make eye contact. I dropped socks into her plastic bag and said, “Merry Christmas, God Bless You.” She said nothing and walked on. As I was waiting for the next guest she turned to me and said, “Can I have please another pair for a friend?”
She returned and stood right in front of me. This time she looked me right in the eye and said, “You know, no one has ever given me a pair of socks before?” And then she stared to cry. And I started to cry.
Then she reached out to hug me. And up to that point I never touched a homeless person before. So I hugged her back.
That was my epiphany moment. I knew from that moment on that I had to be the sock person.
You see, many established charities will provide all types of clothing for the homeless, but, since most people throw out their socks when they are used instead of donating them, it is rare that the homeless will have the opportunity to receive socks.
It was from that epiphany moment that The Joy of Sox came into being.
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