When Adina Lichtman started at NYU as a social work major, she never thought she’d become the CEO of her own organization. But things quickly changed.
“I started this little project, just donating a couple pairs of socks,” Lichtman said.
That little project became Knock Knock Give A Sock (KKGS), an organization Lichtman created to break down the stigma of homelessness and help those in need by sharing socks.
During her sophomore year, while handing out sandwiches to the homeless, Lichtman was offered a suggestion by a man she encountered: “Ma’am, it is so nice that you are giving out sandwiches,” he said, “but what we really need are a pair of socks.”
“I could have collected 150,000 pairs of socks at that point, but it wouldn’t have mattered. The most important thing was to help reduce the stigma around homelessness.”
Without thinking, Lichtman ran up to her dormitory and went door-to-door, asking classmates to donate socks. Within minutes, she collected about 40 pairs.
“If I could do that, then I could make it bigger,” Lichtman remembered thinking.
By the time she was a senior, KKGS had spread to over 20 college campuses, had collected over 50,000 pairs of socks and had become a 501(c)(3).
But Lichtman didn’t stop with socks for the homeless. She had a bigger idea in mind — to humanize homelessness. So she created “Meet Your Neighbors Dinners,” bringing together those experiencing homelessness with those who are not, in order to encourage discussions and foster stronger communities.
“I could have collected 150,000 pairs of socks at that point, but it wouldn’t have mattered. The most important thing was to help reduce the stigma around homelessness,” Lichtman said.
Today, KKGS has donated over 750,000 socks and hosted about 18 “Meet Your Neighbors Dinners,” 10 of which have been Shabbat dinners with young Jewish professionals. “As Jews, there have been so many times throughout history that we needed a hand to grab. Now, we are in a place where we can extend a hand,” Lichtman said.
Lichtman said that many of her friends often ask what they should do when they see a homeless person on the street. “You don’t have to give money, you don’t have to give food, but there is no reason not to give a smile,” she often replies.
Go Team! While she may not be an athlete per se, Lichtman represented various NYU sports teams as the Bobcat, the school’s mascot, during one semester.