The holiday season is such a hectic time of year that people often forget about the little things – like the importance of a warm pair of socks.
Jamie and Kitty Coyen, founders of the national non-profit that provides elderly individuals with socks every winter, Socks for Seniors, said they didn”t realize socks were such an integral part of staying warm during the winter until they were volunteering at a senior home.
The couple, who were regular volunteers, said one day one of the women they had come to know seemed to be distressed.
“A lady who was normally upbeat seemed not herself,” Jamie Coyen said. “After quizzing her, she said her feet were freezing.”
Jamie said after hearing this, his wife went to a nearby store and bought her some new pairs of socks.
At first, he didn”t know his wife had purchased the socks, but Coyen said the woman was so pleased with them that the rest of the residents wanted pairs as well.
Coyen said their non-profit, which began in Columbus, Ohio, grew organically from there.
Since that winter 15 years ago, Coyen said Socks for Seniors now operates in 500 cities around the country and that the organization collects about 100,000 pairs of socks to redistribute each year.
“I never dreamed it would grow like that,” Coyen said.
This holiday season, Jamie said he and his wife are looking to expand their organization to the Moscow community.
Jamie said one of the best ways community members can become involved with the organization is to host a sock drive, where individuals collect new, never-worn pairs of socks.
The organization is strictly non-profit, and Jamie said that means they do not accept monetary donations, only new pairs of socks to give out to local seniors.
Jamie said the socks stay in the local market. The volunteers who put on the sock drives usually know local seniors and senior homes that could use socks, but if they do not, he said Socks for Seniors can help them find a place for the socks.
In order to redistribute large amounts of socks to the public, Jamie said Socks for Seniors has also successfully partnered with larger organizations and companies, like Nike and Meals on Wheels.
When it comes to becoming a volunteer or hosting a local sock drive, Jamie said individuals from across the country can register on the Socks for Seniors website.
He said once a person has registered, they are helped along the way to develop their local group. Jamie said Socks for Seniors representatives also meet with the volunteers at the end of their program to see how it went.
Jamie said the organization”s growth has surprised him in a number of ways, but one of the biggest surprises has been the acknowledgement from prominent individuals, like the creator of Craigslist. Jamie said Craig wanted to help them out, and he connected them with Planet Socks, a retail sock business who sends them surplus socks.
Jamie said partnerships like the one with Planet Socks now allows them to receive anywhere from 8,000-20,000 pairs of new socks during the holiday season.
The organization has been so successful in serving senior citizens that Jamie said he even received a letter from former president George H. W. Bush praising the program.
Jamie said many of the people who receive the socks spend time in wheel chairs where their socks are on display. Jamie said is can be a conversation starter and give them something to talk about.
“It seems to do as much for the people collecting as receiving socks,” Jamie said.
Katie Colson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @katiecolson007