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Socks can be the greatest gift ever

| Wednesday, April 4, 2018

For Christmas this past year, a family member of mine got everyone socks as a gift — now I know what you’re thinking, because it’s exactly what I thought when I unwrapped the present — “oh … um, thanks … socks.” That initial emotion was short-lived and I was filled with remorse when I explored further and discovered the pamphlet that explained for every pair of socks purchased, the company sent a pair of socks to an individual experiencing homelessness. As I delved deeper into this business, I discovered just how impactful donating socks can be.

Socks get dirty, and they wear out fast with continual use. New socks are the most requested item by homeless shelters, but they are also the least frequently donated. Without socks, there are potential environmental, mechanical, infectious and social health problems for individuals experiencing homelessness —frostbite, hammer toe, athlete’s foot and the social stigma of poor health associated with feet that smell, to name a few. Individuals experiencing homelessness often walk many miles per day so their socks (if they are lucky enough to have them) get dirty and wear out quickly. The socks I was gifted for Christmas are specially designed to survive wear and tear, provide support and protect from the elements. While I think these characteristics are important, I got to thinking about a way that college students on a budget could address this problem.

College athletes receive a tremendous amount of gear, especially at a strong Division I school like Notre Dame. Amidst all the shirts, shoes and uniforms, the item that is probably the most overlooked is socks. As a student-athlete, my rowing teammates and I receive at a bare minimum 12 pairs of socks every year. Imagine how many pairs of socks a member of the arguably much more popular football team receives.

Recently I was sorting through the clothing that had been issued to me over my two and a half years on the team, and I was struck by the sheer number of pairs of socks I have accumulated. It is safe to say that I have more pairs of socks than I know what to do with, and after the socks are worn they inevitably end up getting thrown away.

Imagine if each of the 55 rowers on my team donated one of their 12 pairs of issued socks to an individual experiencing homelessness. Fifty-five pairs of socks could be donated to individuals in need each year by a single team. While a women’s rowing team is fairly large, an NCAA football team can have up to 125 rostered players on it. Just think about how many pairs of socks they could donate. If every student-athlete at Notre Dame donated one pair of socks at the beginning of the school year, we could amass about 900 pairs of socks. According to an annual Point-In-Time-Count performed in 2017, there were 125 individuals experiencing chronic homelessness living in St. Joseph County. Every individual experiencing homelessness in St Joseph county could have six new pairs of socks per year if all student-athletes donated just one pair.

As a course requirement for a Poverty Studies capstone, I was able to speak with Michelle Peters, the director of community health and well-being for the Saint Joseph Health System. I asked, “What can the Notre Dame community do for you?” She answered that we students can continue to do the little — clothing drives, food drives and anything that inspires us, because these will always be beneficial for the communities around us.

“Socks from Jocks” has been created to address the problem. During the fall of 2018, I want to place collection boxes in each sports locker room. As per NCAA legislation, student-athletes are allowed to donate their gear, so any athlete who wants to contribute can place one new pair of socks in the box. These socks will be delivered to a local homeless shelter by us athletes. This could grow beyond the student-athlete community. The same sort of drive could be set up in dorms around campus. At the beginning of the term, every student could part with one new pair of socks. Socks are little, and for us, one pair is easy to sacrifice. However, to an individual experiencing homelessness one new pair of socks might just be the best gift ever.

Jennifer Groth


March 28

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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