The San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) and California Coast Credit Union had a modestly ambitious goal for their month-long Warm Their Soles campaign: to collect 5,000 pairs of new socks for youths experiencing homelessness.
When all the socks were collected and counted, the results stunned the organizers: 23,500 pairs of new socks had been donated.
"Wow, I've never seen so many socks," student Alicia Osuna, 18, said as SDCOE and Cal Coast team members delivered 7,700 pairs of those socks to Monarch School on a recent rainy day. "On days like these, kids come to school wet. This is something we really need. For someone to take the time to do this, it's amazing."
Monarch School is a K-12 SDCOE campus in Barrio Logan serving students affected by homelessness. Socks collected during the drive also were distributed to StandUp For Kids San Diego, Home Start, and The Center, agencies that also serve children and teens experiencing homelessness. Socks are the No. 1 most requested item in homeless shelters, and the least donated item of clothing.
SDCOE's Homeless Education Services team launched a sock drive in November 2015 as a grassroots effort in recognition of national Runaway and Homeless Youth Awareness Month. The drive collected 1,000 pairs of socks. For the 2016 effort, SDCOE partnered with Cal Coast, which set a goal of 5,000 pairs of socks.
"We are blown away by the success of this year's drive and the number of students who will be helped in such a significant way," SDCOE Project Specialist Susie Terry said.
Along with all of its support during the Warm Their Soles campaign, Cal Coast provided a $5,000 match, which included $4,000 in socks and cash donations for the agencies. The credit union also partnered with the San Diego Gulls and San Diego Sockers to collect socks at sporting events.
"We are amazed at the response from the public," said Rene McKee, California Coast vice president of community and public relations. "It's a testament to the compassion and generosity of our community, and it is overwhelming to know that we will be able to touch so many lives and warm the soles of so many youth and young adults in need."
Home Start, which assists at-risk children and their families through educational and support services, received 7,600 pairs of new socks this week. During the delivery to Home Start housing in Normal Heights for young mothers and their children, CEO Laura Tancredi-Baese said she was thrilled that her organization was a beneficiary of the sock drive. Tancredi-Baese said the socks would be included in Home Start's annual holiday gift giveaway, where in previous years she's seen mothers struggle to choose between a clothing item for a child and a toy.
"You can see today what a pair of socks means for these mothers," Tancredi-Baese said as a few young women and their children picked out new socks. "They don't have to choose between groceries and a pair of socks. "We're so grateful to SDCOE and Cal Coast for letting us be part of this generosity."
Photo: Monarch School students Alicia Osuna, Janet Alvarez, and Jacqueline Loera were thrilled to pick out new socks.