Feet Pray Love

Submitted by Tom C

Tom Costello '69 COE was once, in his own words, so "homeless-phobic" he would cross the street to avoid a homeless person. Today, he heads a nonprofit that has provided nearly 17,000 pairs of socks to the homeless in Philadelphia and beyond.

For people living on the fringe of society, socks provide protection against the elements and serious medical problems. A lack of clean socks can lead to fungus, mold, gangrene and subsequently even amputations. Yet many homeless people wear a single pair for months. Charitable organizations clothing the homeless often provide everything but socks. Costello decided to do something about it.

Encouraged by his wife to volunteer at a Philadelphia soup kitchen, he saw the need and bought some socks to hand out at Christmastime.

The first time he dropped a pair in a homeless woman's bag, she began to cry. "No one has ever given me socks before," she explained. She embraced Costello-and he felt transformed.

Inspired, Costello launched the Joy of Sox. His organization distributes socks in homeless shelters and through companion nonprofits like Bethesda Project. Costello even holds sock drives at schools. Students learn about homeless children in need, provide pairs for kids their own age-and even distribute the socks with him.

The message is resonating. Now, other cities have established their own "Sox" chapters-and in 2011 Pennsylvania declared Valentine's Day "National Socks for the Homeless Day."