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Let’s Talk About Sox

A Wayne native's nonprofit endeavor warms the feet of hundreds.

Chestnut Hill College volunteers at the November sock-pairing event.Around this time of year, organizations throughout the western suburbs host clothing drives for those in need. But while people look through their closets to see what winter-weather gear they can donate, there’s typically one item they overlook: socks.

That’s where The Joy of Sox comes in. This new nonprofit organization’s mission is to provide socks for the homeless in the Tri-State area. The group raises money to purchase socks, collects new socks through donations, and distributes them directly to people in need.

A Wayne native and an adjunct business professor at Chestnut Hill College, Tom Costello, Jr. developed the concept for The Joy of Sox after hearing from a podiatrist about the many problems homeless people experience with their feet, all because they do not own socks.

“The homeless get great donations of clothes, top coats, sweaters, scarves and gloves, but they don’t get socks,” says Costello. “And when you give somebody something as simple as a pair of socks, their face lights up. It seems to make a tremendous difference in their lives.”

Costello hosted the group’s first “sock-pairing day” on Nov. 19 at Chestnut Hill College, earning support from one of the college’s initiatives to introduce homelessness advocacy to first-year students. Volunteers sorted through 750 pounds of rejected-from-retail socks donated by Alabama Wholesale Socks, matched similar items, and tied them together with purple and yellow ribbon. The day of service amounted to 1,620 pairs—540 of which were donated to St. Francis Inn Ministries in Kensington. The rest will be distributed throughout the winter.

The organization also has a unique and cheerful spirit. Instead of “president” or “executive director,” Costello’s official title is “Chief Sock Person.”

“With too many organizations, it’s like, ‘I’m the chief executive officer,’” says Costello. “But you’re running a nonprofit, and you’ve got three people working for you—you’re not the chief of anything. So I came up with Chief Sock Person, and almost everybody who sees that laughs. That’s exactly the point. They remember it and say, ‘How can I help?’ It’s a fun thing, and that attitude breeds creativity.”

Now, Costello says The Joy of Sox is looking to expand its creative approach beyond the Philadelphia area. In fact, it has already launched regional operations in St. Louis, Mo., and Alexandria, Va. With a need as universal as socks, who knows how far The Joy of Sox can be spread?

To learn more, visit thejoyofsox.org.

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