Warm feet, warm hearts, happy seniors

By Erika Pedroza | Published Wednesday, October 31, 2012

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It’s a simple notion with the potential to have a profound impact – and it takes little more than a box and the desire to spread a little holiday cheer to the elderly.

Socks for Seniors is a drive during the holiday season – this year from Oct. 27 to Dec. 23 – to collect warm socks to deliver to those living in nursing homes and assisted living centers as Christmas time approaches.

“Folks who are not familiar with this community might think receiving socks is insignificant,” said Jamie Coyne, who, with his wife Kitty began the drive 10 years ago in Columbus, Ohio. “The truth is, these folks need these foot coverings for more than to keep their feet warm.

“The holidays can be a depressing time for these residents,” he continued. “They may feel like they have nothing to look forward to, and the interaction with folks who are distributing the socks may be their only dose of the holiday spirit. It does a lot to boost morale.”

The Coynes found that to be true one blustery afternoon. The couple, who frequent senior communities, noticed a normally cheerful resident long-faced and down in spirits.

When asked what was wrong, the elderly woman complained that her feet were freezing.

“My wife went out to the store and got her a pair of socks right then and there,” Coyne recalled. “That woman’s face just lit up, and pretty soon all the residents were saying they wanted a pair, too. Each one of them were just as delighted to receive their pair. We told some friends, and it’s ended up growing from there.”

For many years, the couple and their friends ran an unofficial drive in their communities. Not until the last three years has the project grown out of state and sprawled across the country.

“This project has spread to literally all 50 states, and then some. We are found from coast to coast,” Coyne said. “We are taking on one area at a time. Right now we’re in about 250 cities and growing.”

To start a project, volunteers can visit and register. The Coynes will respond with a batch of emails with logos to print off and affix to boxes, tips on how to promote the drive and tips from other drives. The couple will remain in touch throughout the campaign and collect final numbers and evaluations at the end.

“We try to keep it as simple as we can,” Coyne said, “It all starts with one box, one person, one location, then takes hold from there.”

Although most drives are registered by individuals or families, the organizers have a few restaurants and donut shops involved. They have also had a few unique, and equally appreciated, inquiries.

“Last year I received an email from Craig from Craigslist saying he had heard about the program and wanted to know how he could help,” Coyne recalled. “After explaining the project to him, he said he knew a guy in New York City that has a sock business and that he was going to contact him to see what he could do.

“Three days later, I was at UPS picking up 3,000 pairs of socks they had donated. That was amazing.”

Coyne assured that volunteers will deliver the socks collected here to local facilities and even offered to arrange the delivery with administrators of local homes and centers.

A campaign in Navasota is the only Texas drive currently registered, and there were none hosted in the Lone Star State last year.

“Folks collecting will find it’s easy, simple, cost-free and doesn’t take a lot of time,” Coyne said. “And the payoff – seeing the faces of those residents light up – it’s just amazing.”

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