Kitty Coyne is on a mission to make the holidays brighter for seniors.
As founder of Socks for Seniors, she helps organize community service projects in which new socks are collected and distributed to elderly residents in local nursing homes around the holidays.
The campaign runs annually through Christmas.
The nonprofit, all-volunteer-run organization began in 2002 after Coyne visited a nursing home in her hometown of Columbus, Ohio, the project's headquarters. During a musical therapy program at a senior center, she got to know the residents, and one woman in particular, whose spirits were down.
"Her eyes went to her feet and she said, 'I'm cold, my feet are cold,' " Coyne recalled. "So when I would go shopping, I would buy her a pair of socks. And, since it was around Christmastime, I got fun ones to cheer her up in reindeer and Santa patterns."
When she delivered the socks, the woman was elated, Coyne said.
"It wasn't about the socks, it was that someone took the time to think of them," she said.
Coyne said from there it spread like wildfire, as one activity director talked with another activity director at senior facilities in her area.
"It wasn't intentional, but we started something that today is active in 250 to 255 cities," she said.
She said all socks collected stay in the local area and project coordinators assist in each area of the country.
"We have a Dunkin Donuts in Maine that has 17 stores collecting socks," she said, adding that the organization is looking for support in the Williamsport area.
"Our goal is to reach 1 million," Coyne said. "But in reality, I would like to have 300 project coordinators this year."
Coyne said those who want to help can register on the website at www.socksforseniors.com.
"We don't collect money, we collect socks," she said. There is no cost to the drop-off site or the receiving center.
"It takes so little. We're not begging for money," Coyne said. "It takes one person to decorate a box and put it at a business or their work."
Coyne added that many teens participate by making it a school project.
"You collect the socks, and then you take them to a nursing facility, a group home or homeless shelter," she said.
At this time, there are only a few participating locations in Pennsylvania: Philadelphia, Port Matilda, Butler and Springdale.
"It's not about us," Coyne stressed. "It's about the seniors in your area. It's nice to know the seniors are being thought of during a difficult time of the year - any little bit brings their spirits up."