Here's why there is a sock vending machine at Dufferin Mall

Nov 4 2021, 5:03 pm

When Marisa Sheff worked in sales at a sock manufacturer, she learned some surprising information that took her on a charitable career path.

“Most people are not aware that socks are one of the most needed and least donated items to homeless shelters,” Sheff, founder of Sock Footage, told Daily Hive.

That was all the evidence she needed to find the heart of her own business, Sock Footage. The company operates on a one-for-one model. Customers purchase a pair of novelty socks and they get a pair of plain cotton socks along with it. They can then choose to have Sock Footage donate on their behalf, or donate the socks themselves.

 

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Working at the Mississauga sock manufacturer shed light on how badly people with inadequate housing need good socks.

“That’s where I learned that socks were such a need. And so when I decided to go off on my own, I wanted to incorporate some sort of giveback component,” she said.

Sheff has always volunteered, and her time volunteering at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) made her realize that many homeless people in the city are looking for a sense of community.

“They were all kind of coming in [to CAMH’s library] to have some sense of community and belonging,” she said.

And when she heard a statistic on the radio that those experiencing homelessness hear their own names very infrequently, she decided she wanted to be able to make a difference by both providing a need and building a community. She wanted to leave it up to her customers to decide how they wanted to donate their socks.

“You also have the option to have those donation socks shipped out with your order to be able to give it to someone directly, either to your charity of choice or to someone directly on the streets,” she said. “I always [feel this] is the better option but understand that not everyone’s comfortable with that face to face.”

Beginning this week, Sock Footage will be launching their sock vending machine at Dufferin Mall on November 5. It will be located near the Winners for one year. Shoppers can purchase a pair of novelty socks from the vending machine and they’ll get a second pair of socks with it.

 

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The second pair of socks will be plain cotton socks that shoppers can donate by putting in the vending machine’s donation bin, or heading out on their own to give them to someone in need.

For shoppers who put their socks in the donation bin, they will be donated to Sistering. Sistering is well known for helping transgender people in Toronto, but as a women’s shelter they often get smaller sizes that don’t always fit the people accessing their services. That’s why Sock Footage is opting to use unisex socks for their donations so that the sizing will be more inclusive.

“I’m not going to solve homelessness here with socks, but if I can make someone’s day a little bit better,” said Sheff.

It’s more than just getting and giving, she wants people to share their experiences when they donate.

“Not giving away the confidentiality of the person on the receiving end, but just shooting some footage that you can share on social media that sort of propels people to see like, ‘Oh, maybe I could step outside my comfort zone and give.'”

She said that most customers opt to have Sock Footage donate on their behalf, but those that make the donation themselves have shared their positive experiences. For those who make the donation themselves, Sheff said that they usually keep up the connection.

If you plan to donate the socks yourself, Sheff encourages everyone to document and share the experience using the hashtag #PayItFootward.

She said that people are often nervous and don’t know what to say. Her best advice is that if you see someone in need, ask them their name, introduce yourself and ask if they could use a pair of socks.

You can catch the Sock Footage vending machine at Dufferin Mall beginning Friday. It will remain near the Winners for a year. If you’re unable to make it to the mall, you can order online and opt to donate the socks yourself or have Sock Footage donate on your behalf.

It is the season of giving, after all!

 

Brooke TaylorBrooke Taylor

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