We had the good fortune of connecting with Sue Lee and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sue, how does your business help the community?
Sock It To Em Sock Campaign is a 501c3 that provides new socks to men, women and children experiencing homelessness and/or are in need. Many know that Socks are the #1 clothing need of those who find themselves homeless, but they don’t know that one of the #1 reasons the homeless end up in the ER is a foot ailment and the #1 way to prevent the foot ailment from happening is having clean dry socks to wear on a regular basis. Socks wear out faster than any other article of clothing and people experiencing homelessness are on their feet a lot. The dirt and grime from the street easily gets into their shoes and causes friction that can easily result in wounds that can readily become infected. The Sock It To Em Sock Campaign uses Sock Ambassadors which are any individual, businesses, places of worship, schools, ogranizations and clubs to collect new socks from friends, family and co-workers, they get the socks to us and then we get them out to shelters, services and agencies to distribute to the people they serve. This is important in that as an organization we have brought the awarness of the need for socks to everyday people, who then can become involved in supporting the community in a way they might not have done so. The Sock It To Em Sock Campaign involves citizens of all ages to collect socks, raising their awareness of the need of fellow citizens.and a way to help. We provide socks that lets those receiving them know that someone cares. The recipients are able to feel good by putting on clean dry socks and finally they just might have a better chance of not needing to go to the hospital due to a foot issue.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
The Sock It To Em Sock Campaign is somewhat crazy story. The idea literally came to me as a “written message” in my head while shopping for Thanksgiving Dinner in 2011. I couldn’t get the idea out of my mind and called my friend Phillis Shimamoto (who became the co-founder with me) to share what I was thinking and for us to gather socks from our girlfriends from Thanksgiving to end of December and then we’d take them to a shelter the first week in January. That’s exactly what we did, we collected 575 pair of new socks from friends and first week in January of 2012 we went to three shelters in downtown Denver and delivered the socks. Little did we know the impact that was to have on us, for we found out that socks were the #1 clothing need of men, women and children experiencing homelessness and the shelters rarely have enough socks to meet the requests. At that moment Phillis and I decided that we’d offically launch the Sock It To Em Sock Campaign and we’d try to get new socks out to as many as we possibly could. Not quite sure how to do it accomplish our goal of putting socks on those in need we decided we ask people to collect new socks from friends, family, co-workers, fellow congregants etc. and we’d call those people Sock Ambassadors. Throught this simple system we began collecting socks and then we count them, sort them and bag them by men, women and children’s socks and get them to shelters, services and agencies serving those who were homeless and/or in need. We decided that socks collected in an area would stay in that area and that Sock Ambassadors in other states would have to count, sort, bag and distribute the socks within their own city. In 2012 our first offical year we collected and distributed over 10,00o pair, which we thought was amazing, but little did we know what we’d end up doing. By 2015 we were offically a 501c3 and by 2020 we have given away over 770,000 pair of socks in 41 states. We’re headed for a milestone of 1 million socks and all those have been collected by individuals, businesses, schools, places of worship, organization and provided by some companies. Companies that have given us socks are Bombas, Wigwam, Zkano, Society Socks, MadSportsStuff and Dental Socks. There’s moments where we have felt worn out and frustrated. At one point I had 18,000 pair of socks in my house and they all needed to be counted, sorted, bagged and organized to be delivered to shelters, services and agencies, but we did it. Long hours of our own personal volunteering, hauling bags and lining up volunteers to be Sock Sherpas and help us get them to locations that were waiting. Hours of phone calls, hours of standing and sorting when there were so many other things to be doing and personal issues that life through at us, but we kept thinking those who are experiencing homelessness are counting on us, they don’t know us, but they need the socks and we know the socks mean so much to them. It’s in the giving of our own time energy towards something bigger than we are that we find the strength to go on. Running a nonprofit can be challenging for a lot mechanics of it depends upon volunteers. We wouldn’t have accomplished what we have if it weren’t for those who have collected socks, the people who have given socks, the people who have sorted socks, the people who have delivered socks and the people who have encouraged us to keep at it. We have had the police and sheriffs sock it out to see who could collect the most socks, we’ve gotten mayors involved, collecting socks in their city halls, we have gotten churches to have Socksgiving Sundays and synagogues collecting, schools doing sock drives and scouts and girl scouts collecting within their organizations and all of that so someone they don’t know, someone who suddenly or unexpectedly found themself homeless or in need could have a pair of socks to help them get throught their day. Our youngest Sock Ambassador was a preschooler who collect 285 pair of socks in his preschool proving that no matter what one’s age is they can make a positive difference in the lives of others. It’s amazing what one can do if they put their heart into it. If you’re given an idea and you think you can’t do it, the reality is you probably know enough people who can help you get your idea out there. Sometimes the magic comes in the asking others to help and the real magic comes in knowing you’ve made a difference in the world. Socks, a simple article of clothing that we often take for granted can mean the world to the person who doesn’t have them. We thank everyone who has helped us make a social impact in this world, one pair of socks at a time.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Pre Covid someone visiting it would be an automatic to be going to those places that fulfill the ability to eat something great, get a treat, see scenery they’re not use to seeing and having the chance to visit and talk. In Denver it’d would have been taking them on light rail to see the city from a height different than riding in the car, diembarking downtown and walking Larimer and 16th Street Mall. Attending a performance at the Denver Performing Arts Center, catching a meal from any number of wonderful restaurants in that area, attending the Denver Symphony at Boettcher Concert Hall, hit the Botanical Gardens, take a days excursion up to the mountains walking, eating and shopping our way through Breckenridge, Frisco and Silverthrone, find the little restaurants in Evergreen, Morrison, Monument and other outlining areas. Explore a day in Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park would be a given particularly when the elk are bugling. An evening at Cherokee Ranch and Castle would have been a definite priority for a special treat for those from out of state. But, COVID has changed our ability to treat friends to busy populated areas…so, now it would be walking the Highline Canal which is spectacular no matter what section you walk upon, walking the trails at Cherry Creek Reservoir as well as Waterton Canyon and hold those conversations of how important it is to be a friend and how to get through times that are unusual. Perhaps after all the best spot is the spot where you are with a friend you can talk with.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My co-founder Phillis Shimamoto