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GoNOLA Find: Bonfolk Collective

Colorful and ideal for gifting, these locally made socks are taking things a step further: they also support the New Orleans homeless community.

When is the last time you thought about your feet? Sure, maybe they need another pedicure, but have you ever been really, truly concerned with keeping your feet warm and dry?

Bonfolk Collective is a sock company asking you to mull over that question: what might it feel like if you had to worry about something as basic as a dry, clean pair of socks? It is a local brand with a local, socially driven mission: one pair purchased = one pair donated.

‘What may seem like something small or insignificant to you may mean the world to someone else.’ — Janna Hart Black, founder of Bonfolk Collective

From L.A. to La.

While working in Los Angeles in fashion design, New Orleans native Janna Hart Black saw the effects of homelessness along Skid Row. “I would pass by hundreds of homeless people every day,” Janna says. “This really hit me hard. I got to talking to some of the people in the community, and I came to know that socks are the number-one requested but least-donated item in shelters.”

After a trip back home to visit family, Janna discovered that there is a large homeless population in New Orleans as well. “I knew I wanted to use my skills in design as a way to help give back to those less fortunate in the city,” she says. She quit her job in L.A., moved back to New Orleans, and started Bonfolk Collective.

Smart Socks

Bonfolk has two main types of socks: the socks it sells and the socks it donates. The socks that Bonfolk sells feature Janna’s custom designs, including crawfish, the state of Louisiana, saxophones, and Voodoo dolls, which Janna notes is her favorite. “I have had a couple of attorneys purchase them to wear and intimidate people in the courtroom!” she says. These socks are available for purchase on Bonfolk Collective’s website as well as local stores like Dirty Coast, Defend New Orleans, Red Arrow Workshop, and the Little Flea NOLA market, which runs every other weekend starting in March.

Socks can help prevent foot pain and disease, create warmth, and can improve overall quality of life; they are essential items for those who live predominantly on the street.

The second type of socks — the donated socks — are a bit different, and for good reason. Since these socks are given to our homeless community members, they have been engineered to be antibacterial and to wick moisture. Socks can help prevent foot pain and disease, create warmth, and can improve overall quality of life; they are essential items for those who live predominantly on the street.

It is obvious how important this mission is to Bonfolk Collective. When asked if there was anything else Janna wanted readers to know, she recalled the story of Bonfolk’s first-ever sock donation to the New Orleans Mission, a local homeless shelter.

“We handed out socks to the men and women there, and I left additional socks to be given out to the people [who] need them at their other location. Everyone was so kind and thankful to have a new, clean pair of socks. Some of them even told me that I made their day, thanked me, and gave me a huge hug. I was almost in tears,” she says.

“This first donation really made me realize how important this truly is — not only giving out socks, but going out into the community and talking to those less fortunate, showing someone that you care and want to help,” she continues. “What may seem like something small or insignificant to you may mean the world to someone else.”

A Gift That Keeps Giving

Bonfolk Collective socks make for great, locally made souvenirs and gifts (so much easier to choose a size than a t-shirt!). When you purchase a pair, you’ll enjoy your warm, clean, covered-in-little-crawfish feet. But you’ll also enjoy knowing that somewhere in New Orleans, someone on the street is just a little bit better off with his or her own pair of socks. It’s not a solution to homelessness, but it certainly is a step in taking care of our fellow humans. Your dollars have power. Use them well.

Stay connected with Bonfolk Collective (and even take part in an upcoming sock donation) through Instagram, Facebook, and their website.

Emily Ramírez Hernández is the child of New Orleans natives whose families have been in the city for generations. Emily's earliest memories of New Orleans include joyful car rides over bumpy streets, eating dripping roast beef po-boys at Domilise's, and catching bouncy balls during Mardi Gras parades with cousins. An urban planner by day and freelance writer by night, when she is off the clock she enjoys biking around town, belly dancing, and catching nerdlesque shows.

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