What did one new sock say to the other? “Great things are afoot!”
While many of us found ways to occupy ourselves during the past year by binge watching TV, upping our home exercise game, reading every book on our “to read” bookshelf, or working on jigsaw puzzles, 20-year-old Natanael (Nate) Southcott founded “Souls Without Socks,” a nonprofit that serves unsheltered residents of Whatcom County. Nate has made a difference by helping to source and distribute new, clean socks for people experiencing homelessness in our community.
Philanthropy comes easily to Nate. His parents, Bonnie Southcott, Ellen Harwick, and the late Layne Southcott, each have a long history in community service in Whatcom County.
Nate attended Samish School and credits the connections made there and ongoing relationships as greatly influential to his acts of community service.
Nate got involved in political issues while he was a student at Sehome High School. He spoke at the “March for our Lives” rally, which took place in response to the Parkland School shooting.
By the end of high school, Nate’s caring nature was moved by his awareness of the overwhelming shortage of necessary clothing items for people experiencing homelessness in Whatcom County. “Especially socks,” Nate stressed, “which have been the most needed and least donated items of clothing. People underestimate how easily soiled they [socks] are when you are unhoused.”
Thoughtfully and realistically, Nate felt that tackling the huge systemic issue of homelessness in general was beyond his ability, but always believed he could address the immediate need for socks by reaching out to his community connections.
After graduating from Sehome High School in 2019, Nate attended USC in Southern California. When the pandemic shut everything down in early 2020, Nate returned home. Once the family realized the shutdown would not end in a few months, Nate sat down with his parents and decided to take a gap year from school. When faced with the task to choose a productive thing to do during that time, the idea of sourcing socks returned to the forefront. Intending to start full steam in winter 2021, Nate spent the next months putting together the structure of the organization, while doing landscaping work to make money.
By this time, Nate had connected with Jeff Gray, a former Superfeet colleague of Nate’s stepmom, Ellen. Jeff had worked on Superfeet’s annual “Hearts to Soles” event, which provides foot care, shoes and socks to the underserved in the community.
Jeff became Nate’s mentor, helping guide Nate through the multitude of tasks and mounds of paperwork required to create the non-profit, as well as coming up with the organization’s name, “Souls Without Socks.” Jeff also connected Nate to folks at Nestor Hosiery, the donor of the early shipments of new socks that would have otherwise gone unsold. Nate gathered friends to help match and sort the socks received.
“Souls Without Socks” has already helped warm thousands of feet in Whatcom County, after just two rounds of distribution. In January of 2021, the first 800 pairs went to The Lighthouse Mission. In March, 2021, 600 more pairs were delivered and distributed to clients of Lydia Place. Lydia Place staff worked with other agencies, non-profits, and volunteers to ensure any extra socks were distributed to our houseless neighbors and residents of encampments throughout the community.
Nate is hopeful that distributing socks will help improve the quality of life by helping people literally get back up on their feet. At the same time, he’s also realistic that it doesn’t do much to get folks back on their feet figuratively; those issues will take more knowledge, power and resources than Nate currently has.
Nate returns to USC in August as a sophomore majoring in political science. His ultimate goal is to gain the knowledge and ability to improve the lives of those around him on a larger scale. Nate’s recent experience will shift future class choices and extracurricular activities, and he acknowledges there are fewer places to better learn to understand the gravity of homelessness than in Southern California.
Nate hopes to encourage others to make an immediate impact in the community. There are opportunities to work with any of the many local organizations who work hard to help build up people in our community. You can help by offering donations, a helping hand, or even simply showing an interest.
To support future distributions of socks to Whatcom County residents through Nate’s organization, you’re invited to donate through the Souls Without Socks website. You can also find more information on the website about ways you can help.
You know what they say:
A hat warms the head. A coat warms the body.
But socks warm the sole.