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Friday
Nov102017

Hippy Feet Expands Products and Partnerships to Combat Homelessness

Article by Claudia Kittock, photos provided by Hippy Feet

Last January, I followed up on a chance meeting, and had coffee with Michael Mader, one of the most amazing young men I have ever been honored to know. Michael started a company, Hippy Feet, after a very serious head injury that forced him to take an entire semester away from college during his senior year. While Michael was recovering, he read an ad from the Salvation Army about the incredible need for socks. Socks are the least donated item, and the most needed at homeless shelters. Michael’s reaction to the ad was atypical. “I can do something about that!” Michael thought, and boy has he ever!

Michael returned to college with a mission. Finish college and start a company that manufactured socks. For every sock purchased through Hippy Feet, Michael planned to donate one to someone experiencing homelessness. In the first 18 months of business, Hippy Feet has succeeded expectations and is ahead of the place Michael believed it would be. They have sold and given away over 14,800 socks! 7,400 sold and 7,400 donated, and in case you think Michael is now doing full-time administration, you would be wrong. Michael continues to go out on the street, meeting people and personally handing out socks.

His new focus is developing employment for people experiencing homelessness. He hopes to create at least 10 new jobs this year. Hippy Feet is expanding their employment model starting with what they are calling “Pop Up Employment”. Michael is working with YouthLink to employ 3-5 young people once a week for a month. Hippy Feet would bring socks, tags, and packaging materials to YouthLink and teach the youth how to get the socks packaged and ready to be sent out. The goal is to provide work on an immediate basis that would result in income to support daily needs.

Additionally, Hippy Feet is currently fundraising to raise enough money to buy an embroidery machine, which would be housed at Elpis Enterprises. Once purchased, they will partner with Elpis Enterprises to employ homeless youth, provide training on that machine, and then be able to offer new employment based on the skills learned during the training. Elpis Enterprises (Elpis is Greek for Hope) is a Saint Paul-based 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that provides job training, work experience and job placement for homeless or precariously-housed young people ages 16-23. Youth build skills, experience and relationships in the community, and develop as individuals and potential employees by working in real enterprises gaining the skills, knowledge, and confidence necessary to overcome homelessness and become contributing members of our community.

Expanding apparel choices is also a goal of Hippy Feet. If you check the website you will note the addition of hats, with American made, organic cotton. Sweatshirts are expected before Black Friday.

Some of the collaborative work they are doing includes a partnership with My Sister. My Sister supports women who are survivors of sex trafficking, and in partnering with Hippy Feet, hopes to further highlight this issue, particularly during the upcoming Super Bowl.

As exciting as the work is, the only way for it to go forward is through your help. How can you help?
· Learn more about Hippy Feet
· Buy Hippy Feet at https://hippyfeet.co/collections/all
· Get involved in supporting programs that help people experiencing homelessness including YouthLinkMy Sister, or any other program doing the work.

We are stronger together. This is a solvable problem. Wouldn’t it be exciting to be the first major city in the United States to eradicate homelessness? It can be done if we all work together! We are stronger together.

Claudia can be reached at claudia@millcitymedia.org

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