If the feet of soldiers in Afghanistan are a lot more comfortable these days, it’s partly due to the generosity of a Mount Airy sock company.
Renfro Corp. recently donated 3,000 pair of its Copper Sole socks to U.S. Marine and Army units there through the Socks for Heroes program based in San Clemente, Calif. That is added to thousands more given previously by the company.
“We’re a little mom-and-pop operation,” explained Jim Hogan, who co-founded the Socks for Heroes support organization with his wife Carla. They did so after their son Donald, 20, a lance corporal with the Marine Corps, died in Afghanistan in 2009.
Their healing process included starting Socks for Heroes in 2011 after their son’s old unit was deployed back to Afghanistan, in order to help its members and other soldiers better deal with a major obstacle they face.
One typically thinks of weapons and protective gear such as helmets as the key items for service personnel in the field. However, socks occupy an important place as well.
“A Marine captain told me once that they’re as important as ammo or chow,” Jim Hogan said in a telephone interview from California.
“Right now it’s winter there, and they’re slogging through mud and water,” Hogan added of conditions in Afghanistan. Soldiers can spend 10 hours a day or more on their feet during patrols, meaning inadequate footwear often leads to blisters and other problems.
With military personnel facing hostilities from the enemy as well as the weather, “they don’t need to worry about whether they have a clean pair of socks to wear,” the Socks for Heroes official said.
Having quality foot covering was a need not being filled through U.S. military procurement channels, according to Hogan. “At one point, we were sending socks made in Pakistan to Afghanistan,” he said of a poor substitute.
And thus Socks for Heroes, and its eventual connection with Renfro Corp. in Mount Airy, was born.
“To date, they’ve donated 20,000 pair of socks to us,” Hogan said of the locally headquartered company.
“We’re awfully grateful for it.”
Call Brought Response
When launching Socks for Heroes, the California couple turned to the logical sources.
“I started calling sock companies to see if they would donate to us,” Jim Hogan recalled.
The trail soon led to Renfro Corp., a worldwide leader in the legwear industry, where Hogan spoke with a company official by telephone.
“I called him and asked them for help and they gave it,” Hogan said of Renfro officials. “Once they determined we were real, they were all over us.” The company initially supplied 600 dozen.
Renfro already was involved with other charitable programs and has become a key supporter of Socks for Heroes, which as of Sunday had sent 158,000 pair to soldiers, including 118,000 this year.
The local company’s input most recently included the shipment of 3,000 pair earlier this month as part of a promotion for its Copper Sole brand. That type is extremely beneficial to infantrymen because of the copper ions woven into the fabric which eliminate odor-causing bacteria.
The Copper Sole socks also have a reinforced cushioned sole and a smooth toe seam that provide an extra degree of comfort when wearing boots.
Renfro’s promotion involved donating a pair of those socks for every pair bought by the public through a web site. And when the purchases were less than hoped, the company chipped in extra socks to make up the total of 3,000 to be given, Hogan said.
They were shipped to California and subsequently sent overseas. Hogan said he is unsure if they reached soldiers’ hands — or feet — by Christmas, due to the demands on the postal system during the holiday period.
The latest batch of socks was shipped to Sangin, a town in Afghanistan known as the narcotics center for the Taliban, and Marja, a hotbed of Marine activity there.
Hogan estimates that there is a need for a minimum of 10,000 pair of socks per month, a number that reflects a lack of laundry facilities in Afghanistan and the fact that socks become permeated with sand and grit.
Given the continuing demand, Hogan invites monetary donations from the public. Checks can be sent to the San Clemente Marine Corps Support Group, 2171 Via Teca, San Clemente, CA, 92673.
Meanwhile, the Hogans are happy about the Mount Airy company’s role as a key sponsor of Socks for Heroes.
“It means the world to us,” Jim Hogan said. “It was heartwarming for us.”
Not to mention the warmer feet for soldiers.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or email@example.com.