Hamilton woman collecting socks for children in city

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Two embarrassed young students inspired Monique Runzer to start her annual “Socks for Hamilton OH Youth” program this time of year.

As an elementary-school class mother years ago at a holiday party, she announced a game where students were to throw their shoes to the middle of the classroom, she’d set a timer and they’d race to put them back on.

“This little boy came up to me — big brown eyes, almost in tears — and he goes, ‘Ma’am, I don’t want to play your game.’”

“He said, ‘I have on socks, but they don’t match, and they’re dirty, and they smell. And I don’t want the kids to make fun of me,’” Runzer said.

He became the game’s timer.

A month later, another boy didn’t want to skate, because he didn’t own any socks. She bought him some neon ones at the rink, and “he had an amazing time.”

She started thinking: Socks aren’t that expensive, they’re a necessity for hygiene and help shoes last longer.

In 2019 she collected about 200 pairs of socks. Last year, she gathered 1,000 pairs. And she always puts in $150 of her own money.

This year, she’s hoping for 2,000 pairs, plus $2,000 to buy socks and other things the children can use. Her collection will end Dec. 4.

She recently searched the Internet for sock manufacturers, and Hype Socks in Columbus asked her how many she needed. She asked for 500, thinking that was a big number.

“They make really nice socks for sports teams,” she said. “Well, they had a ton of inventory that they weren’t using, like samples and stuff.”

The company delivered those 500 pairs Friday.

St. Antoninus School in Hamilton County’s Green Township heard about her collection and decided to help.

The first year, Runzer delivered socks to individual city schools, sorted by size. Last year, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the school district recommended she take the socks to The Caring Closet, a charity at D and Main streets that distributes clothes to Hamilton kids.

“The Caring Closet is so cool because counselors from these different schools hit them up and say, ‘I’ve got a child, she wears Size 6-8, and she needs a box,’” Runzer said. “And they’ve done over 280 boxes within the last couple of months. The boxes contain everything from Dial soap, deodorant, female products that are needed, coats, socks, underwear.”

She buys many socks in bulk that are the same color, plus dress socks for kids in choir or band. She also buys thick tights to keep girls’ legs warm.

This year, she plans to buy other things The Caring Closet can use, such as soap, deodorant and specific sizes of underwear.

“These kids are the kids your kids go to school with,” said Tammy Bucher Sims, executive director of The Caring Closet. “These are the kids that you see playing in the park, these are the kids that you see on the playgrounds. They are our kids here in Hamilton.”

The Caring Closet serves about 1,000 students — about 10 percent of the district — in a school year. For children in need, it will provide 3-4 pants, 7-8 shirts, a coat, shoes, underwear, socks and toiletries.

Bucher Sims loves giving tours of The Caring Closet, but warns: “If you come up here, you’re probably going to cry — I’ve got tissues everywhere — because you’re going to hear the stories of what we deal with on a daily basis.”

But collecting the socks “is so much fun,” Runzer said. “It’s the best feeling in the world.”

To give Runzer socks, email her at moniquerunzer@gmail.com to arrange a pickup. There also are links to Venmo and PayPal on her Facebook page. She’ll use that money to buy socks or other items children need.

To donate directly to The Caring Closet, people can write a check and send it to Caring Closet, PO Box 684, 6 South D Street, Hamilton OH 45011. Its website is thecaringclosethamilton.com. People wishing to tour The Caring Closet can make an appointment by emailing thecaringcloset@gmail.com.

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