by Pete Mazzaccaro
It was about this time last year that Chestnut Hill College business administration professor Tom Costello knew he had to do something about the socks situation.
That’s right. Socks. Costello, despite an admitted reluctance to volunteer his time at St.Vincent de Paul’s Face to Face dining room in Germantown, he and his wife went there two years ago. It was there that he first learned from a podiatrist that homeless people have a hard time keeping their feet healthy. Part of the problem is getting socks.
“When people donate clothes,” Costello told the Local in a phone interview this week, they donate pants, shirts, coats, but what do they do with their socks? They throw them away.”
A year later, Costello said he was handing out socks at another homeless shelter when a homeless woman welled up with tears and gave him a hug because of the socks.
“She told me that no one had ever given her socks before,” Costello said. “That’s when I knew I had to do something.”
Costello, who lives in Wayne and has been active in the charitable activities of his church, St. Thomas of Villanova, founded The Joy of Sox, a 501(c)(3) organization with a simple mission: to provide socks to the homeless.
The idea has taken off. At Chestnut Hill College, the freshman class adopted Joy of Sox as a yearlong project and will, this Friday, host an event to “pair” socks that were donated by a major manufacturer based in Alabama.
“I have 774 pounds of socks,” Costello said. They’re currently stored in his garage.
After the pairing event, the students will deliver the socks to Project H.O.M.E. and St Francis Inn in Kensington.
Costello’s goal is to deliver socks to every homeless person in Philadelphia. So far, he’s been encouraged by the support he’s received, not only from local people in the community but also across the country.
“I have friends in Boston who want to start this in their neighborhood,” he said. “A church in Seattle contacted me to ask I f they could do what I’m doing there. It’s getting bigger than I ever imagined.”
Costello is hoping to find a warehouse in the future to store socks – there’s only so much room in the garage – and he’s hoping to find a corporate sponsor to get involved. He’s currently considering major league baseball teams that would be a natural fit (no pun intended) like the Boston Red Sox or the Chicago White Sox.
In the meantime, for more information or to help, visit Costello’s website, thejoyofsox.org.