In a crowded church room decorated with colorful balloons, Sue Lee and Phillis Shimamoto were met with a standing ovation, cheers and hugs as they celebrated officially collecting one million pairs of socks through their nonprofit, Sock It To ‘Em Sock Campaign.
“Tonight was a celebration for every single person who’s helped us over 10 years. And it is a community celebration because every single person has had their hand and their heart in this organization,” Shimamoto said.
Co-founded by Lee and Shimamoto, the Sock It To ‘Em nonprofit collects and distributes new pairs of socks for people experiencing homelessness and those in need, such as low-income families, Marshall Fire victims and migrants who arrived in Denver in late 2022.
To commemorate the nonprofit reaching the milestone of collecting one million pairs of socks, families, businesses, nonprofits, pageant queens, and mayors and city council members in Arapahoe County gathered Feb. 16 at the First Plymouth Congregational Church in Cherry Hills Village.
“These two incredible, amazing women started this organization with just a hope and a dream,” said Tammie Limoges, the nonprofit’s chief development and operations officer. “And here we are.”
The nonprofit’s roots go back more than a decade ago, when Lee and Shimamoto decided to gather and distribute socks to homeless shelters in January 2012. At each location they went to, they were told socks were one of the most requested items.
“And so we looked at each other, and I said, ‘We got to make this as big as we can,’” Lee said during her speech.
Among the crowded room of celebrants stood Lisa Maloney and Eileen Robinson, representatives of the nonprofit Clothes to Kids of Denver, which gives free clothing to students from low-income or in-crisis families in the metro Denver area.
“Last year, we gave away more than 50,000 pairs of socks, and so Sock It To ‘Em is a phenomenal source for all those socks,” said Robinson, a volunteer coordinator for the nonprofit.
Seeing the growth of Sock It To ‘Em over the years is what Robinson calls “ant power.”
“‘Because when everybody does a little tiny bit, it adds up to a million socks — and it gives me chills,” she said. “We all pulled together and did this as a community.”
Sock It To ‘Em collects socks in a variety of ways, including sock drives — which the cities of Centennial, Greenwood Village and Englewood recently held in each of their communities — as well as partnerships with businesses like Bombas, an apparel brand.
Isabelle Rios, a Bombas giving associate, said the company has been a partner of Sock It To ‘Em since 2019 and looks forward to working together for many more years to come.
“In a little over four years, we have donated over 150,000 pairs of socks to your organization,” Rios said. “It’s an honor to be here today and mark this incredible achievement alongside you.”
Lee, Shimamoto and Limoges took time during the celebration to give special recognition to people who have supported the nonprofit throughout the years, giving them certificates.
Eventually, the tables turned, as the three women were each given framed artwork as a gift on behalf of the nonprofit's board of directors to recognize their hard work.
Shimamoto said the emotion of the night was, at times, overwhelming, but her favorite part of it was seeing old friends and being able to thank people for their contributions.
“I think they truly saw what their contribution has done and that they have made a difference — and, like we always say, every pair matters,” she said.
Given the momentum the nonprofit now has, Shimamoto thinks reaching two million pairs of collected socks will happen faster. Donating socks, she explained, is a “very easy way to contribute to our community.”
“And people actually enjoy collecting socks or giving socks, and that, I think, is one thing that people were surprised by,” she said. “That they also found joy in the collection process.”
Those interested in learning more about the organization and how to get involved can visit: sockittoemsockcampaign.org.