Spreading Smiles

Brighton High School Sock Design Contest

By Bold App

Brighton High School Sock Design Contest

“If my design wins, do I get 10% of profits?”

 

Today we took a two-minute walk over to our neighbors at Brighton High School to take full control of Mr. Chris Plunkett’s 6th period elective art class. Snap chatting our adventures as we left the warehouse, box of socks in hand, we asked each other what we thought we would experience during the next two hours. We had little expectations but hoped to share our story with the students and give them the opportunity to try to design the next featured FEAT sock.

The school is a massive three-story building, built like a castle. The large wooden doors open up to the front lobby, where you enter through an archway of metal detectors (perhaps more effective than a moat full of sharks?) After signing in we were led to the art classroom where we were greeted by one of the school’s counselors, Kathleen Young, and her colleague Mr. Plunkett. They explained to us that it was a half-day and it might be a struggle getting the kids to focus. Not to mention the fact that it was the last period of the day before the kids could go home. We gave each other the look, “What are we getting ourselves into?”

Besides the regular scheduled art class, Ms. Young had recruited some other budding entrepreneurs to join in our art project, thinking that they’d hear some valuable advice. We provided the students with blank FEAT socks and let their imaginations take the wheel from there. They had about 40 minutes to create their own masterpieces, and at the end we held a group art critique. Mr. Plunkett explained how an art critique usually works to the students who hadn’t participated in one before: only constructive criticism would be allowed. We all voted together on our “winning” pieces, giving away actual FEAT socks as prizes and even some FEAT t-shirts. One kid eagerly saw an opportunity and spoke up, “If my design wins, do I get 10% of profits?” Maybe some day.

The experience was so rewarding. We were able to share with these kids the inspirational history of a company that was started by a kid not too much older than they. For some of these kids, its important to see what kinds of opportunities lay before them, and what directions they can take with their lives. With enough dedication, hard work, and proper education, they too could start a company from the ground up.

We laughed together and shared musings about our favorite companies and clothing stores. Some kids even were kind enough to follow us on Instagram and our other social media platforms. Many expressed interest in participating in a job shadow, or even just getting the chance to come by the warehouse to see what we actually do all day at FEAT. There wasn’t a dull moment at Brighton High and we are sure we will make a return visit.

 

 

-Bianca, Spreading Smiles

 

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Project SOUP; Not Your Average Soup kitchen

By Bold App

Project SOUP; Not Your Average Soup kitchen

 

 

SOUP; an acronym with a meaningful break down, Share our United Pantry, has been trying to end local hunger in Somerville, MA, for over 16 years. As a separate entity, but located under the extensive umbrella of the Somerville Homeless Coalition, this small, yet tightly packed, food pantry is located on the backside of First Congregational Church of Somerville. Today, we were able to take a quick trip over to visit our new friend, Nina Siciliano, manager at Project SOUP, accompanied by a long time volunteer. We saw first-hand how the pantry functions on a daily basis.

 Along with our enthusiasm, we were excited to bring about 100 pairs of our best selling BamBam socks, which in turn brought real smiles to incoming clients of Project SOUP. One local woman gave me a bit of her time, generously sharing part of her story with me. Here, to pick up food for her two children and herself, she selflessly turned down items she knew she wouldn’t use. She left with some food essentials to warm their bellies, and colorful socks to warm their feet.

 The SOUP pantry manages to keep its supply and open their doors to Somerville residents six days of the week. Free suppers are offered, as well as distribution of fresh and canned foods. On Sundays they close.

 The food is collected at the pantry for distribution to eligible elderly and disabled citizens of Somerville, and they have truly made use of any and all accessible space.  Boxes and bags of bread are piled high, tubs of canned food and other non-perishables line the walls and cover the shelves. As we expressed our astonishment at the collections, one of the volunteers explained that this supply was actually less than usual.

 They had enormous walk in freezers and fridge space, for collection of fresh vegetables, dairy and meats, but those were surprisingly in low stock during our visit. Thankfully, due to the kind-hearted people and companies still making contributions, food manages to make its way through Project SOUP’s doors regularly. From Panera to Target, and even local Boston brands, they receive donations of pretty much anything you can imagine. These contributions aren’t as unattainable as you would tend to assume. Nina discussed the networking and connections it takes to make something like Project SOUP a reality, and how keeping these relationships is the key to SOUP’s success. FEAT will continue to partner with Project SOUP, and donate whenever possible.

 

As always, if you can manage a donation, please visit Somerville Homeless Coalition's donate website, https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/shc

 

 

 

-Bianca, Spreading Smiles

 

 

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Suit Up Springfield

By Bold App

Suit Up Springfield

Socks; the new tie of the modern man's suit.

What’s a suit without a good pair of socks? Well it’s still a suit, and it can signify seriousness of purpose, class, and good decision-making. FEAT recently teamed up with a successful non-profit organization that encourages the young men of Springfield, MA to dress their best and reach for success. Our fellow path-pavers over at Suit Up Springfield, started this non-profit with the intentions of guiding the young men in this urban community to “suit-up” and dress the way they want to be perceived. Helping with job searches, the process of interviewing, and successfully managing networking skills, Suit Up Springfield shows young men how to tie their ties and how to make lasting workplace ties.

This thought of a simple suit changing your life may at first seem simplistic, but this isn’t the only way Suit Up Springfield is making a difference. Through donations and suit drives, they are equipped to operate this mentoring program that supports an attitude of confidence and determination, which can lead tomorrow’s community leaders to succeed academically and professionally.

Founder of Suit Up Springfield, Justin Roberts, shares FEAT’s love for exciting, smile inducing socks. One of his social media outreach strategies was to launch a "sock game"; encouraging young businessmen to post photos wearing crazy socks with their business attire.

The FEAT team has been caught saying on multiple occasions that crazy cool socks are not only a conversation starter; they are a force that is hard to ignore. We reached out to the president over at Suit Up Springfield and expressed our motivation to upgrade their sock drawer. We were able to send out 100 pairs of our 2015 summer line that will absolutely give these young men a step-up in interviews and meetings. 

With Springfield hitting awfully close to home for us recent UMass Amherst grads, it was easy to see how our donation could benefit. Hopefully within the next few weeks we will be receiving some photos to share with you, because who doesn’t want to see a nicely groomed and well-dressed young man?

 Follow their journey on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/Suitupspringfield

If you can manage a donation, please visit here DONATE, and thank you for your support!

 

-Bianca, Spreading Smiles

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Floating Doctors

By Bold App

Floating Doctors

“There doesn’t have to be a dock or a port where we go, there just has to be a coast, and wherever that coast is we’ll get there”. Dr. Benjamin LaBrot, founder of Floating Doctors, is referring to the accessibility that their non-profit organization has instituted in isolated developing areas in the Caribbean. He and his sister, Sky LaBrot, by way of ship, distribute donated medical supplies, and implement free acute and preventative health care, to these coastal areas.

Panama, located in Central America, is bordered by both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, its location being one of the reasons that Floating Doctors has implemented a free ‘floating’ health care service there. Floating Doctors wishes to reduce the burden of disease on people in these developing areas, who otherwise wouldn’t be able to receive this treatment, nor be able to afford their own fully equipped hospitals.

The Southern Wind, the Floating Doctors’ boat, carries 20 working people and 11 tons of relief supplies. It is the answer to Dr. Benjamin LaBrot’s hope to provide more medical supplies than just what he had formerly been able to carry in a few backpacks.

FEAT heard about Floating Doctors through a friend, and Tufts Medical Student, Catherine Dam, who will be volunteering with the program this month. She mentioned her desire to provide the kids there with FEAT Socks, to brighten their spirits, and to keep their feet comfortable.

When I first reached out to Floating Doctor’s Sky LaBrot, Co-Founder and CEO, she was so excited to hear of our enthusiasm regarding a sock donation. She politely stopped me during my spiel to say, “It would be so great to bring socks for the people here, but its very warm year round and they just don’t really wear shoes...”. This concept quickly made sense, but we kept discussing possibilities, and she expressed a need for socks at one of their homes for elderly residents, which is run by Floating Doctors. With about 100 residents, it would be easy for FEAT to supply them with more than the necessary number of socks to keep their feet happy.

Volunteers are the backbone to Floating Doctors. While medical experience is most appreciated, they accept anyone with positive attitude, willingness to work hard, and a desire to help people. This program thrives from the selflessness of doctors, nurses, healthcare professionals, students, and goodhearted people.

With the socks shipped, we are excited to hear back from our friends at Floating Doctors. Over the next few weeks, we will definitely document Catherine’s travels to Panama, and hopefully she will return with plenty of photos and inspirational stories to share with the rest of us.

 

Please if you can, donate to Floating Doctors at http://floatingdoctors.com/donation/

Want an idea of what your money can do?

$5 - 30 kids with multi-vitamins for a month
$25 - 10 patients seen and provided with necessary meds
$50 – Provide transport to medical crew to a distant community
$100 - Micro finance a surgery
$2,500 – Keep floating doctors afloat for 1 month

 

 

 

-Bianca, Spreading Smiles

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FEAT + Back on My Feet; Running to End Homelessness

By Bold App

 “first restore confidence, strength, and self-esteem…and to tackle the road ahead and move toward jobs, homes and new lives.”

Back on My Feet (BoMF) is an organization that uses running to combat homelessness. An idea that brings local Boston volunteers out three days a week, early in the morning, to run alongside homeless and struggling people who need to start putting the right foot forward to make real change in their lives, and start heading in the right direction.

If the name of this non-profit doesn’t just highlight a perfect collaboration between two organizations, then nothing will. Back on My Feet and FEAT socks recently collaborated to bring over 400 pairs of socks to BoMF Boston’s homeless veterans. Before speaking with a local friend of FEAT - a BoMF volunteer- we had yet to hear of this company and the amazing accomplishments and success they have had.

This nationwide group, located in 12 major cities coast-to-coast, focuses on fighting homelessness by getting people motivated to run. This community driven mission serves to, “first restore confidence, strength, and self-esteem…and to tackle the road ahead and move toward jobs, homes and new lives.”

They emphasize that it is important for all people to feel recognized; this gives the members a chance to redefine themselves. No longer are they thought of as homeless, they are dedicated runners working towards a goal. These people sign a contract, ensuring they will complete their goals. They don’t just do this because it is required; this incentive gives hope for success and a new life that is evident through the Alumni members. “ Within six months of becoming a Back on My Feet Alumnus, 90% of members maintain their employment, 60% receive a wage increase, and 20% achieve a promotion.” These returnees support and return to run with their original teams.

Angela Moore, the previously mentioned friend of FEAT, and a long time supporter and volunteer at BoMF, has been with the program since 2013 and runs every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, rain or shine. She started as a ‘walker’ and with persistence, finished her first 5K on New Years Day 2014 with her co-members. She recalls tears of joy as she made this accomplishment, “I cried as I crossed the finish-line because of their determination (and mine), even though many were homeless.”

Angela goes on to describe how there is an overwhelming sense of belonging; teams will train and complete half marathons. In her own time with BoMF, she has run alongside several team members who were able to get jobs and move into housing. She explains that these same people will return to the groups because they consider what BoMF creates to be family. Plus, they LOVE her dog Brody, who joins in every run.

(Brody wearing FEAT socks) 

Want to join in and start walking or running with BoMF? Visit, http://boston.backonmyfeet.org/boston-get-involved

 

-Bianca, Spreading Smiles

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Socks For Somerville Homeless Coalition

By Bold App

Socks For Somerville Homeless Coalition

When one of the employees from Somerville Homeless Coalition handed us their business card, Parker and I noticed the wacky slogan, Working hard to put ourselves out of business since 1985. Let’s just say it took us a minute to comprehend the quirky message that they were trying to get across. That is the long-term goal of SHC and so many other homeless shelters across Boston. An article posted by the Boston Globe from December 2014 stated, “More Boston residents living in emergency shelters than in any of 25 major cities surveyed nationwide…”

 This issue is hard to ignore. As local residents ourselves, we constantly feel the severity of the situation as we walk around the city. From T-Stops, to businesses and storefronts, the problem is clear. That is why we have started this movement to provide socks to these facilities on an ongoing basis.

Although finding the entrance to Somerville Homeless Coalition served as our first feat of the day, we finally made it to our donation destination. If you follow FEAT Socks on Snapchat, you might have felt like you were following DJ Khaled on his infamous lost at sea waterski Snapstory. But it was worth it. While speaking with the director at SHC we learned that over 1000 people trickle through their food kitchen year round and SHC provides a wide range of other services for the participants.

While on our visit at SHC, we learned about their 21st Annual Somerville 5K Road Race. As the name states, this yearly race is held to raise money for the organization. If you love to run, and love to help out the community, make sure you sign up for this year’s race. It takes place October 1st 2016, and keep an eye out for the FEAT socks logo, as we are proud sponsor.

 -Bianca, Spreading Smiles

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1000 Pairs of Socks to Boston's Pine Street Inn

By Bold App

1000 Pairs of Socks to Boston's Pine Street Inn

 “New socks are incredibly essential for homeless men and women and are always something that we are in need of here at Pine Street Inn.” – Melissa Cording, Director of Development.

 

The Pine Street Inn is a breathtaking establishment, located in Boston’s South End, in the former Boston Fire Department Headquarters. Started back in 1969, and built on the hopes of one man with 50 beds for women off the streets, the Pine Street Inn (PSI) is now a 670 bed organization with three locations. PSI in collaboration with HopeFound, formely Friends of Shattuck Shelter, and located in Jamaica Plain, now delivers a comprehensive and coordinated range of services to 1,600 homeless men and women.

 The wide range of services that PSI generously offers includes everything from temporary to permanent housing, job training and placement, recovery services, street outreach teams, and advocacy. They even run an in-house catering company, iCater, which is run by selected individuals from PSI program.

 On February 26th, Parker Burr, founder of FEAT, and I dropped off 900+ new blank FEAT socks to PSI. The Vice President, Heidi Daniels, graciously offered to take us on a tour of the facility. But before we even had the chance to enter the facility, a man wearing tattered clothing greeted us. He saw the bundle of socks in my arms and sweetly asked if he could take a pair for him and his girlfriend. With the intended purpose of our visit being a visual learning experience, this came as an eye opening realization that we were providing more than we could have hoped. Now it was personal for us.

 Once inside the building, the feeling of community was abundant. People at the front desk warmly greeted us. Participants of the program walking by waved and smiled, and the security guards took the time to show us through the front hallway. Our first stop was quick, and we saw the in-house medical staff and Stabilization Program. We went on to see the dorm-type facilities, which hold over 500 guests nightly. They stressed the importance of clean blankets and towels, and mentioned that their enormous washer and dryers, on which they had relied for years, had died. With loads of fundraising they were able to purchase new machines, and they had to use cranes to bring them in through the windows of the five-story building.

 We saw the kitchens and dining areas and met a few of the 500-person staff that makes PSI a fully functioning operation. They have done more than you can imagine, making the homeless people of Boston feel like they have a secure refuge. In addition to this large facility, they have a sister location in Jamaica Plain and have permanent housing in and around the city for families to get back on their feet. They also have Outreach teams, which send out volunteers in vans with goods, such as socks, to help keep people comfortable during the colder days. We are both humbled to be able to give the smallest comforts to deserving folks.

 

If you can, please make donations to PSI at, http://www.pinestreetinn.org/donate

 

-Bianca, Spreading Smiles

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Chennai Family Donation

By Bold App

Chennai Family Donation
Chennai is the capital city of the Indian State of Tamil Nadu. As the fourth largest city in the country, it is a major cultural, economic and educational center. Recently Chennai was hit with a devastating natural disaster.
Record-breaking rainfall, generated by the annual northeast monsoon occurring in the months of November-December 2015 that hit the city, and the 2015 South Indian flood has had monumental effects on Chennai. This disaster was reported to have displaced approximately 1.8 million people and killed more then 500 individuals. This devastation caused somewhere between $7-15 billion dollars in damage.
OnDecember 2nd, 2015, Chennai was officially declared a disaster area. The days to follow brought along suffering. People were forced to leave and seek refuge with family in neighboring cities. By December 6th rescue efforts were coming to an end and the relief efforts were surfacing. The Chennai Corporation dispersed relief packages, consisting of mostly food. Slowly other necessities were starting to be restored: mobile, banking and power.
The damage this disaster caused is hard to imagine and even harder to put into words. The suffering these people felt is life changing, and sometimes- particularly when we are so geographically distant from a place like this- it takes stepping back and looking at the whole of a situation to truly empathize. 
A friend of FEAT mentioned he would be visiting Chennai in February 2016. He generously asked for a small donation of socks to provide to a family he would be staying with. This small gesture, that many would take for granted, provided smiles. It brought just a little bit of joy, but opened our eyes to the ripple effect that one small act of kindness can produce.
-Bianca Corey, FEAT Team spreads smiles

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