Your City Sports

While attending a Project Homeless Connect event in Bellingham in 2013, Carolyn Colwell was surprised at how quickly organizers ran out of socks being given away. She soon learned that at homeless shelters, socks are the most requested items but are among the least donated. Colwell says she saw this disparity as a business opportunity that could simultaneously benefit the community.

Fewer than six years later, Colwell has donated more than 100,000 pairs of socks to homeless shelters and charities around the U.S. and Canada through her Lynden business, Your City Sports. Using their “Buy One, Give One” model, for every pair of socks, beanie, or scarf that is bought, one pair of socks is donated to the customer’s local homeless charity. Footwear businesses like Toms shoes and Bombas, have also used this model successfully.

“Socks provide a sense of comfort and hope to the homeless, especially in the cold winter months,” Colwell says. “It’s a great way to unite people with custom gear while helping their community.”

Rachel Tinnell of Lighthouse Mission Ministries in Bellingham has been working with and receiving donations from Colwell since 2014. As of July 2018, Lighthouse has received more than 3,800 pairs of socks.

“People go through socks very quickly, especially when they are on their feet all day,” Tinnell says. “Donations are a huge help and it’s really exciting to see four or five giant boxes stuffed full of socks coming in.”

Not only has Colwell touched the lives of thousands in the homeless community, but she has also mastered a model that combines community awareness, unity, and business success. In 2014, Your City Sports began offering customizable items such as scarves, beanies, socks and more. Instead of selling cookies for fundraising, high schools like Blaine, Lynden, Sehome, and Nooksack have used Your City Sports to provide their students with customized school spirit.

The socks that Colwell donates are overrun supply from their supplier in the Philippines. Customized designs are sent to a factory overseas, which make the socks out of high quality and durable materials.

“It’s cheaper for us and keeps all of those extra socks from being thrown away, which helps the environment,” Colwell says. The donation-ready socks are kept in Colwell’s family garage and a storage unit in Lynden before being sent to their forever home.

“I think having all of those socks in the garage sometimes bugs my husband, but he’s a trooper,” Colwell laughs.

Your City Sports is on track to grow even more as schools and businesses catch on to their success. What better way to unite a community than through new socks?

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"'Socks provide a sense of comfort and hope to the homeless, especially in the cold winter months.'"