Socks Help Homeless Youth

Emily Ness
Updated: October 30, 2019 07:59 PM

A safe and responsible way for homeless youth to make money was brought to Life House Wednesday by Hippy Feet and Frost River. Together, the two companies created custom socks to be packaged by the youth.


“We have a mission to provide jobs to young people experiencing homelessness, so we focus on youth ages 16-24 that have been affected by homelessness and provide them with temporary income and temporary employment,” Michael Mader, Founder of Hippy Socks said.

Adopting Hippy Feet’s pop-up employment process, the two companies met at Life House where they provided youth the means and supplies to package their custom socks.

“We’re not familiar with another program like this. We call it pop-up employment, based off of the idea of a pop up shop that we can bring jobs to where they’re most needed. In this case, it is young people experiencing homelessness in the Duluth area. But as a whole, we can take this on the road to wherever there’s a need,” Sam Harper, Co-Founder of Hippy Feet said.

The program originated from an idea that Mader had in college and went on to execute with Harper post-graduation.

“I am a person who has been fortunate enough to grow up with opportunity and more importantly, grow up with a support group for when I’ve made a mistake or when I’ve fallen down,” Mader said. “I recognize that not everybody has a support group like I do or like I have been able to leverage in my years and we wanted to develop a company that acted as a support group for others that didn’t have the luxury of having one.”

The program strives to teach youth basic workplace skills, build their resumes and serve as references later on.

“Our aim isn’t to be their forever employer. Rather, it is to kind of propel them along the pathway towards full time employment,” Mader said.

Life House says that this program is promising because it provides their youth a positive way to make money.

“We like to give our youth the opportunity to safely earn money that is not necessarily the street economy,” Margie Nelson, Community Engagement Director at Life House said. “Youth in our youth center were able to work with our employment case manager for this opportunity and were able to give them some work for the day.”

Hippy Feet and Frost River too, say that the program is worthwhile because it allows them to give back to the community.

“The mission is perfect and it really aligns with a lot of the same values that we have as well,” Steph Anderson, Frost River Marketing Manager said.

Some of these common values are sustainability and domestic manufacturing.

“We’re a Minnesota based company and we love working with other Minnesota based companies. That’s really exciting for us and that gives us an opportunity to invest in this place that we love. We get to invest in the youth, but we also get to work with these other organizations that are doing really cool things,” Harper said.

Another common value is Hippy Feet and Frost River’s desire to create stylish and durable products that make an impact in people’s lives.

“Socks are a great way to show personality in an otherwise boring world,” Mader said. “And socks are always important for people experiencing homeless. Socks keep your feet warm, socks keep your feet safe. A lot of times people experiencing homelessness walk a lot. That can be very damaging to your feet if you’re walking ten plus miles a day.”

In total, Hippy Feet and Frost River came up with two different styled socks.

“There’s the scenic Northwood’s sock and then also the all over canoe sock which has all the paddles and canoes on it,” Anderson said.

The companies hope that the jobs their socks create help youth get back on their feet and make strides towards future goals.

“It’s really important to us for our customers to know who their purchase is helping. Every package comes signed by the young person who we hired to package that pair so they know who their package has helped employ,” Harper said. “It really is an opportunity to invest in your local community and give a great gift that gives back. It helps make a difference in a big way.”

Hippy Feet and Frost River plan to host more pop-up employment events in the future.


Emily Ness

Copyright 2019 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved


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