Students' charitable start-up helps people in need, gains national footing




Students' charitable start-up helps people in need, gains national footing

Calendar Icon Oct 27, 2015      Person Bust Icon By Karl Vogel     RSS Feed RSS

Put A Sock In It accepts donated socks at 85 locations across UNL's campuses and has distributed more than 3,000 pairs to people in need.
Put A Sock In It accepts donated socks at 85 locations across UNL's campuses and has distributed more than 3,000 pairs to people in need.
A nonprofit organization founded by three UNL students is putting its collective engineering experience toward helping Lincoln's homeless population and is also finding a foothold nationally.

Put A Sock In It was founded in February by Tayler Sundermann, Sarah Porath and Josie Jensen, who pondered one of the great dilemmas of modern American life: What to do with socks when one gets lost in the laundry?

The brainchild of sophomore mechanical engineering major Tayler Sundermann, sophomore electrical engineering major Sarah Porath and former engineering student Josie Jensen is giving UNL students an opportunity to donate their socks at 85 locations across the Lincoln campuses, mostly in dormitory laundry rooms.

Porath said Put A Sock In It has been a success from its February inception because it meets the needs of people at all points in the giving process.

"Basically, we all have socks that we have lost, in the laundry or some other way," Porath said. "Nobody even thinks about donating unmatched socks. We have them, but we're just going to throw them away, so we might as well donate them to someone who could use them.

"There's a huge demand among the homeless for socks. We all think about giving shirts, coats, pants and shoes, but never socks. It's all about getting people to think about what is possible."

The donated socks are then paired with the closest possible match in stock. In less than 10 months, more than 3,000 pairs have been distributed in the Lincoln area to the homeless or other people in need.

"It's getting bigger all the time," Porath said. "We're working on it every day while we're keeping up with school. We have to find 10 minutes here and 10 minutes there so we can send emails or talk to people or organize our next event.

"But (having) an engineering backgrounds helps. We do a lot of thinking through the steps we need to take to accomplish our goals."

The sudden growth has created a need for Put A Sock In It to seek help with its operation. It recently joined with the College of Business Administration's Center for Entrepreneurship and was advised during their start-up phase by Kit Boesch, a former Lancaster County Human Services director.

Also, thanks to publicity generated from a USA Today College article written by Vanessa Daves, one of Porath's sisters in the Kappa Delta sorority, the organization is being asked to expand across the country. Porath said students at universities in New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania are interested in bringing Put A Sock In It to their campuses, and companies such as Google (in Council Bluffs, Iowa) and the Nerdery (in Kansas City, Chicago and Minneapolis) have contacted the Lincoln group about doing events.

Porath said Put A Sock In It has worked locally with the Center for People in Need, the Salvation Army, Homeless Project Connect, and this past weekend with Clothing Recyclers in Ford, Nebraska. In the coming months, Porath said, they hope to have a big event on the UNL city campus.

The sudden growth, Porath said, is difficult to fathom and manage sometimes, but the end result of the work is what matters.

"It's difficult, but we have to remember that we're not just improving lives externally. We're not giving them a new house or anything big, but we're helping them take a step toward that," Porath said.

"They have to spend what little money they have on food or rent or electricity or whatever they need to get by. That's stressful. We're giving them the resources that are necessary and relieving one stress in their lives."