New Jersey Student Makes an Impact By Donating Eco-Friendly Socks to Unhoused Individuals
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New Jersey Student Makes an Impact By Donating Eco-Friendly Socks to Unhoused Individuals

Grace Pope, a junior at Dwight-Englewood School in New Jersey, joined the third cycle of the Climate Leaders Fellowship. This environmental leadership program leads high school students in researching the effects of climate change in their own communities and finding ways to combat the problem locally.

The online program is offered in a collaboration between the Stanford University Deliberative Democracy Lab and the Rustic Pathways Foundation.

Read Grace’s impact story below!

I joined the Climate Leaders Fellowship in hope of making a positive impact in my community. With the assignment of implementing a materials drive, my partner and I got to brainstorming.

As two New York City residents, cold winters were all too familiar, and we weren’t blind to the number of people who are homeless. After some research, we found that socks are one of the most requested items in homeless shelters, and one of the least donated. We decided to create a GoFundMe so we could order socks from an environmentally sustainable company.

Some think you have to prioritize one issue over another, but we wanted to show that we could help warm up some New Yorkers in an environmentally-friendly way. A good deed can be done with the environment in mind, and it can still make a positive impact.

The GoFundMe was up for about 2 weeks. We sent the link to our family and friends, and asked them to pass it on. When we made the decision to close the fundraiser, we had raised $1,654.

While the GoFundMe was up, we had created a Google Doc spreadsheet with the sustainable sock companies we were considering ordering from. With the company name, cost per sock, and how many socks we could order from the money we raised, we decided on Pact. The organic, carbon neutral, and fair trade clothing company offered us the most “bang for our buck.”

After placing the order of 60 pairs of baby socks, 150 pairs of kids socks, and 240 pairs of adult socks, a grand total of 450 pairs of socks, we called the Bowery Mission. A place that serves homeless and hungry New Yorkers only a quick subway ride away from our own homes seemed like the perfect place to donate the socks. The Bowery Mission has programs for both adults and children, so we ordered different sized socks to try to accommodate the needs of everyone who seeks help from them.

With two huge boxes of socks, my partner and I opened the door to the Bowery Mission to be greeted with smiles. After taking a picture with the kind man who took the socks from us, we made our way back home, proud of the results of our project.

My journey of environmental awareness started when I was young. What sparked my passion for the environment was animals. I have always loved animals, so much so that when I was ten years old, I gave up eating meat because I felt bad for the animals who were killed so a human could eat them. I am sixteen now, and I have remained vegetarian, but my rationalization for it has evolved. The foundation remains the same: I don’t want to eat something that’s no longer alive because of (essentially) me. But now that I understand the positive impact being vegetarian has on the environment, it only encourages me to continue this diet.

As I learn more about the environment, the more I want to participate in efforts to help to save it. I am particularly interested in oceans and marine life, and I hope to take a Rustic Pathways trip that focuses on that this summer.

Completing the Climate Leaders Fellowship program has strengthened my love for the environment. The project my partner and I implemented made me feel empowered with the knowledge that anyone can make a difference. I know that donating environmentally friendly socks to warm up those who are less fortunate didn’t dramatically alter the course of the planet or anybody’s life, but that only encourages me to find ways to make a long lasting impact. My journey in conservation has only begun, and I know it will be something I stick with for years to come.

Our next fellowship round launches in March, and the application deadline is February 5.  For more information, please visit our Climate Leaders Fellowship program page.

About the Author

Kayla Anzalone

Kayla joined Rustic Pathways in 2020 as the Director of Special Projects. She has nearly a decade of experience in communications and marketing. At Rustic Pathways, Kayla is dedicated to helping high school students discover their passion for exploring the world through summer travel programs. She drives impactful initiatives to empower students through meaningful travel experiences worldwide. Based in San Jose, California, Kayla loves the outdoors, live music and travel.