Tayler Sundermann, a sophomore mechanical engineering major and business minor from Omaha, keeps a list on his phone of things that irk him that he feels he could change. Last spring, the number of matchless socks he found in each load of laundry topped that list. He suggested to his friend Josie Jensen, now a sophomore economics major from Omaha, they make an effort to collect lone socks on campus and use them for good. Together they started Put a Sock in It with the help of Sarah Porath, a civil engineering major from Lincoln, Nebraska.
Many organizations in town work towards providing clothing and other necessities to the homeless population in Lincoln, but socks are often overlooked, especially when they are donated without a pair. Through Put A Sock In It, Sundermann, Jensen and Porath paired and distributed socks through Project Homeless Connect Lincoln, MICAH House, Salvation Army and the Center for People in Need.
“Socks seem like a small thing, but if you’re working so hard to make ends meet for your family, some socks for your children give you one less thing to worry about,” Sunderman said.
In spring of 2015, the group proposed a bill to the university’s Residence Hall Association allowing them to put boxes in all of the dorm laundry rooms for students to donate their mismatched socks. Without any advertising or announcements made about the drive, the group collected more than 600 socks in the final month of the school year. At the end of 2015, the group had collected 5,000 socks solely from the residence halls.
Now Put A Sock In It is a registered non-profit organization in Nebraska and is working towards 501(c)3 certification. The group partnered with various local and national organizations to host sock drives. Li-Cor Biosciences in Lincoln collected more than 1,200 socks and was the first corporate partner to donate. More recently, The Nerdery, a software development company based in Bloomington, Minnesota, held sock drives in each of their offices across the country.
“Their workforce is so unique,” Sunderman said. “It’s the ideal millennial environment, and they really set the stage for the type of people and organizations we want to bring onboard for this project.”
In addition to the non-profit organization, the founders started a registered student organization for Put A Sock In It at UNL to get more students involved in giving back on campus and in the community. They hope to inspire other universities to keep donation bins in laundry rooms and make this a national student organization. They are also receiving interest from companies across the country asking how they can help, and as a group of full-time students, Jensen admitted this gets overwhelming.
Jensen, Porath and Sundermann run the non-profit startup as residents in the Startup Studio, a program of the Center for Entrepreneurship. The CBA center provides space, resources and coaching as students create startups from an idea. Jensen believes the center helped them stay on track with the goals of their organization and make connections, leading to sock collections in 10 states.
“At one point, we got so caught up in all of the emails and opportunities to expand that we lost sight of our mission statement,” Jensen said. “The Center for Entrepreneurship keeps us grounded and moving forward, rather than letting us try to expand without purpose.”
The Put a Sock in It student organization is hosting a week-long sock drive with the UNL Student Veterans Organization March 2-11 with various locations around campus to donate socks. For more information about how you can get involved or donate, visit the Put A Sock In It website
or Facebook page