By MARIELLE SARMIENTO
Every Saturday morning, Resident Freshman Mentor (RFM) Cat Fernando, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’20, takes a group of her residents and friends to volunteer at the food pantry in the Metro Baptist Church. It’s a 20-block walk through the streets of Manhattan from Fordham to the church and is often an eventful one.
Walking down 9th Avenue, one sees a variety of people, but most, in true New York fashion, don’t make eye contact and keep walking. However, Fernando does not. Instead, when she sees people living on the streets, she always stops, talks to them and gives them a pair of socks.
Giving out socks to the homeless is part of the efforts for Fernando’s organization, Socks in the City. “Socks are the most-needed but least-donated clothing item for people experiencing homelessness,” Fernando said. She doesn’t just give socks out, she also asks for people’s names and for them to share interesting facts about themselves. The mission of Socks in the City is “to fill the physical need for socks while filling the emotional need of being seen and heard as a unique individual.”
“When I was 11, I started giving out bags of water and sandwiches to people experiencing homelessness in New York whenever I came to visit from Jersey,” Fernando told The Observer. A social work major, Fernando’s past experiences helping New Yorkers in need inspired her to create Socks in the City. “I found out that food and water are really important, but that need is addressed by a lot of people already. It’s never enough, but there are other needs that aren’t addressed at all, like toiletries and socks.”
Fernando started the organization during August of her freshman year. “I realized when I moved to Manhattan that I couldn’t afford to continually give out so many things every day on my own,” she explained. Instead, she created this organization to help expand the donations.
Socks in the City’s efforts can be seen throughout the university community. Last year, the Fordham University Association sponsored Soul to Soul, an event at which Fernando charged a pack of socks as the admission fee. During her freshman year, Fernando held a screening of “Sex and the City,” and asked for either a pack of socks or $5 for entry. With the donations and publicity from both of these events, she has received more than 1,200 pairs of socks.
Fernando has installed several donation bins in the laundry room in McKeon Hall, and plans to put more bins in McMahon Hall by the end of this year for both new and used socks. Even single socks are welcome to be donated, as she brings them to the Nutley Family Service Bureau Thrift Shop in New Jersey, which resells them as textiles to fund the organization.
Socks in the City started out at Fordham with just a few donation bins around campus, but has since grown exponentially. This year, Fernando has reached out and expanded to other universities.Now, Socks in the City also has donation bins at The College of New Jersey, Drexel University and Hunter College.
Fernando is in the process of registering Socks in the City as an official nonprofit organization with help from the university. When it is officially registered, she’ll be able to expand and more easily receive donations. She has already reserved the name of the organization and assembled a Board of Directors.
“Watching Socks in the City in action every Saturday is amazing, because you can really see the impact of Cat’s work. One donation can go a really long way,” said Julianne Holmquist, FCLC ’21. Holmquist is one of Fernando’s residents, and joins Fernando at the food pantry.
Fernando wants people to know, “It doesn’t take a lot of effort to get some socks and give some socks, but it does make a huge impact on the people who receive them. Recognizing the inherent worth of people through simple objects.”
Next time you have too many mismatched, single socks or see a pack on sale at the store, consider stopping by the Socks in the City donation bins in McKeon Hall.
For more information on Socks in the City and how to donate, visit www.socksinthecity.org.