Thursday, April 14, 2011

Sending Warmth and Cheer with Socks for Japan

A couple of weeks ago my friend Lisa called. Her voice was filled with breathless excitement. Lisa lived in Japan while teaching for the JET Program, and our shared love for that country has turned into a shared heartache over the devastation of last month's – has it already been a month?! – earthquake, tsunami, nuclear scare.

The reason for her call was to let me know about a project she found online that collected and distributed socks for people living in emergency shelters in northeastern Japan. Socks for Japan, a group started by Jason Kelly, an American living in Tochigi Prefecture, became Lisa's mission. She gave me the link to the website and the Facebook page, and asked if I were willing to donate a few pairs of socks to the cause. 

After reading about Socks for Japan, not only did I want to contribute, but I wanted to write a story. I interviewed Kelly via Skype, found out that one of his first donors – who subsequently became a volunteer translator – lives in Jersey City, and gave Lisa twelve pairs of socks to warm the feet of a few strangers in a place I love so much. You can read the story here.

If you're interested in contributing, here's how easy it is.

I went to my neighborhood Loehmann's and bought a bunch of socks. 

Socks for Japan

Berkley wanted to get in on the act. I didn't let her touch the socks for fear that the person receiving them might be allergic to her.

Berkley wants to help Japan!

I printed out letters of encouragement to accompany each pair of socks. I cheated by using a sample letter on the Socks for Japan website, but I added a couple of personal lines saying that my mom is from Okinawa and my husband and I love Japan.

Letters of encouragement

Since it was cherry blossom season in Japan, I added sakura stickers to each letter. I also labeled each re-sealable bag.

Adding do-dads to the letters and labeling the bags

I happened to have these stickers of Kutsushita Nyanko, a delightful San-X character. Kutsushita means socks, and Kutsushita Nyanko is a black cat with white feet. Deliciously cute and appropriate in this case. 

Kutsushita seals

After removing the tags from the socks, I put individual pairs with the notes in the re-sealable bags. Lisa's company paid for the shipping, which was generous.

The socks are bagged and ready to go!

I hope the few pairs of socks I sent made their way to a shelter in northeastern Japan and brought a smile to the faces of the people who received them. It's a simple gesture, I know, but it makes me feel as if I made a difference.

Logo designed by Takako Otani

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