Public Service Spotlight
Founder and Executive Director, Everyday Philanthropy
After completing her degree at Wagner, Jennifer Maulsby began an impactful career working in human service program development and administration at several New York City organizations. She was an Administrative Director at Safe Horizon where she helped to establish and operate a September 11th emergency-response program and she served as Program Director at New Yorkers for Children where she supervised over 50 grants awarded annually, directed the New York City Family Fund, allocating $3 million to September 11th relief, and provided technical assistance, development, and outreach. Most recently, Maulsby worked at the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene where she held several roles including Special Assistant to the Assistant Commissioner of DOHMH Program Services, and Director of Mental Health Administration.
Not long after Maulsby had her son, Liam, in December of 2007, she returned to DOHMH working part-time as a consultant. However, she found that having a history in the office of “working in a very busy, supervisory, full-time role,” there was often tension with only being back part-time. “I felt like I didn’t have enough time for work, but at the same time, I didn’t have enough time for my family,” she says. So Maulsby decided she wanted to do something that would give her more flexibility and allow her to spend more time with her son. That is when ideas started brewing about launching a NYC-based version of her family’s volunteer project - Socks’n Undies Sunday. The program collects and distributes undergarments and toiletries to men, women, and children who are homeless, by partnering with community members, non-profits, and faith-based organizations.
Socks’n Undies Sunday was created over five years ago directly in response to the needs of homeless individuals. Maulsby’s mother is a volunteer shelter director at her church in Chicago and, after recognizing a huge need for undergarments and socks among her clients, she began collecting those types of items at her church and in her community. Maulsby helped her mother start the Chicago area program, which has since collected and delivered over 50,000 items to people in need. When Maulsby began thinking about implementing a similar program in New York, she contacted her friend (and fellow Wagner alum), Muzzy Rosenblatt, who is the Executive Director of the Bowery Resident’s Committee, a nonprofit that addresses the needs of persons who are homeless and/or living with limited resources. After Maulsby explained her idea, Rosenblatt said he had just had a conversation with his staff and “they expressed a great need for basic undergarments and personal hygiene items – as they are rarely donated. And the next day I had a long list from BRC’s Program Director with their specific needs. It was great timing!” Maulsby explains.
So, armed with determination, and still working at DOHMH, Maulsby reached out to friends and family last summer to start garnering support. After a successful start-up fundraising effort, she hosted her first collection with a group of enthusiastic preschoolers in the fall. And then began an outreach effort to schools, community groups, businesses, and membership organizations. In March of 2010, she incorporated Everyday Philanthropy, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, to serve as the parent organization of the Socks’n Undies Sunday program.
Through the Socks’n Undies program, new items are donated by individuals, or collected at businesses, churches, synagogues, schools, or other community groups. Maulsby then works with volunteers to package sets of socks, underwear, t-shirts, and toiletries in a retail style, with a label indicating the size and gender. “Our partners’ clients deserve to have these personal items delivered in the most dignified way,” says Maulsby, and it is also important to her that donations go out with the right professional image. “Packaging is a great project for our volunteers. It takes some time, but people feel so good that they get to have a hand in how their donations are presented – they really enjoy putting their personal touch on them,” she says.
In addition to working with various community groups and institutions to support their collection efforts, Maulsby has also developed a program called Giving to Grow!, which introduces young children to the concept of societal needs and social responsibility. She developed a classroom curriculum and activities to accompany a Socks’n Undies donation drive that helps little ones think about: why socks are important, what happens when they get worn out, and why people may need more than one pair. “I developed Giving to Grow! as a result of my own classroom experience with children my son Liam’s age and a bit older,” Maulsby says. While there are not a lot of volunteer or giving programs geared toward younger children and their families out there, she continues, “almost all schools are doing some type of community service project, and Giving to Grow! provides resources and tools for busy teachers and parents to use in the classroom and at home. It’s an easy and effective way to introduce kids to these important concepts and life lessons. So while the program helps our partners, it also offers an educational component. And importantly, the kids have so much fun helping others. It’s quite moving to see that a five-year-old really understands the value of serving their community.”
As the Socks’n Undies Sunday program continues to develop, Maulsby believes it can become a strong franchise model. “The program is so simple, effective, fun - and easily replicable - that our goal is to have Socks’n Undies Sunday programs throughout the country,” she says. “We are only just beginning to meet the needs of our partner organizations and there is so much room for growth,” Maulsby continues, “especially with the homeless population surging.” But, she goes on, “one thing I love – and I learned this when I was at Wagner – is that people are so open and willing to help others. If you ask, it’s amazing what people will come back with for you.”