Simply Socks: Drive aims to collect more than 30,000 pairs for homeless

BREMERTON — Ten years ago, Kitsap Mental Health reached out to Kiwanis clubs in Kitsap County and asked them to buy socks to donate to people who are homeless.

Angela Sell, who’s been organizing this project ever since, said her first question was, why socks?

“Apparently clean feet and good health [are linked],” Sell said. “Wet feet, dirty feet, unclean socks cause myriad problems. Gangrene, athlete’s foot … [Clean socks] just help with general healthiness.”

But, Sell said, if only the clubs bought socks to donate, “that’s not very many socks.” And so, Simply Socks was born.

All they do, she said, is stand outside stores and pass out a simple card asking shoppers to donate socks to their cause. Volunteers are there to answer any questions and provide more information if asked.

“My first year doing it, I was scared to death we wouldn’t [collect] any socks,” Sell said.

“The first year we stood outside [stores], we raised over a thousand pairs of socks,” Sell said.

The first year, the drive didn’t have a name. It wasn’t until one shopper asked if they “simply needed socks” that the drive’s name, Simply Socks, was coined.

Readying for their 10th anniversary Simply Socks Drive on Jan. 20, volunteers have collected 27,607 pairs of new socks to donate to Kitsap Mental Health, which then passes the socks on to volunteers of the Point in Time Homeless Count, who then pass the socks out to the homeless population.

“I’d love to get us over 30,000 [pairs],” Sell said. “I’d love to get over 50,000, but it might take a few more years.”

This year, Simply Socks will take place Jan. 20 at the Walmart and Fred Meyer in Bremerton. In previous years, volunteers also collected socks at other locations throughout the county, but Sell said with Walmart, at least, permission to stand outside asking for donations is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.

For anyone who wants to donate new, clean socks to the Simply Socks drive, but can’t make it to either store on the day of the drive, Sell said they can drop donations off at her office 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 3276 Plaza Road, Suite 112, Silverdale.

The most the drive has collected in a single year, Sell said, was about 9,000 socks, when they were able to ask for donations at all the Walmarts in the county as well as the Bremerton Fred Meyer. On average, though, they collect about 3,500 pairs each year.

After Jan. 20, all the donations will be taken back to Sell’s office to be counted before a volunteer from Kitsap Mental Health picks them up.

Sell said she wanted to express “our gratitude to the community for giving us so many socks so far.”

“Most people take socks for granted,” she added. “Being disadvantaged or homeless … basic necessities like a clean pair of socks, you can’t take for granted.”

— Michelle Beahm is online editor for Kitsap News Group. She can be reached at mbeahm@sound publishing.com.

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