Community West Foundation: Students Learn Compassion Through SOCKS+ Project

Mandy Fleming and students in the Leaders of Community Service Group with Marty Uhle, President and CEO of Community West Foundation

When Mandy Fleming started teaching at Lincoln Elementary School in Lakewood as an Interventional Specialist six years ago, she suggested the idea to her principal of starting a student group that focused on giving back to the community.

After brainstorming ideas, the pair came up with what is now called the Leaders of Community Service group. Each grade selects a service project for the school to adopt for a month out of the school year.

It is up to the students in the Leaders of Community Service group to set a goal for the project and build awareness. Students in Kindergarten to 5 th grade rotate monthly to champion a new project. So far this year, volunteers from 4 th and 5 th grade totaled 27 students.

Mandy Fleming, Interventional Specialist at Lincoln Elementary School in Lakewood

For the month of October, the students led a ‘Socktober’ sock drive benefiting Socks+ they successfully collected 302 pairs of socks that will be given to the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless for distribution to people experiencing homelessness in Greater Cleveland.

Many of the socks collected also included inspiring messages intended to give the recipient of the socks a positive boost.

“Building empathy is the goal of this program,” explained Mandy. “Kids don’t know the impact they can have until they are able to pause from tasks to think about others.”

She explained that the group will come up with creative ideas on how to get the word out about their projects. Whether it’s posters around the school or speaking to students in other grades, they carry out the tasks as a team.

“Kids naturally want to help others, and just need a little guidance or opportunity on how to get started. Sometimes they think helping needs result in big changes, but tiny acts of kindness make a huge difference. It’s an amazing process to see them carry out ideas and see the results of their efforts,” said Mandy.

Mandy finds inspiration in fostering an environment which creates community and compassion through the simplest acts, like donating a pair of socks. This effort allows even elementary students to learn early on that they can make a difference in someone else’s life.

To learn more about how you can get involved with Socks+, visit

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