Philanthropy is the fabric of this fantastic family, and teenage son Evan Vickaryous is now sinking his feet into one of the community’s most worthwhile charities.
Like many 13-year-old boys, Sanford’s Evan Vickaryous plays baseball and football. Plus, he’s a Boy Scout (who plans to earn Eagle Scout status by age 16), an honor student, and an accomplished pianist. Oh, and he also runs a charity fundraiser in his spare time... which is when, exactly?
Evan, an eighth grader, is affectionately known throughout the Lake Mary-Sanford community as the new Sock Boy. He’s now entering his second season heading up the Annual Holiday Sock Drive, a program he took over from the previous Sock Boy, Lake Mary’s Tanner Eaves, when Tanner went off to college. The drive collects new, unused socks and delivers them to Seminole County residents in need.
If it sounds like a big task, especially for a middle schooler, it is. But Evan has his family to support him. His parents, Jim Vickaryous and Jen Ferguson, and younger sister Irelyn are no strangers to charitable outreach. This clan has made philanthropy part of the family mission.
The family’s trifecta of giving focuses on education, foster children, and the homeless. The spirit of philanthropy that Jen and Jim have demonstrated to their children is evident.
“Our work in the community is an expression of our faith,” says Jen, whose heart is with foster children, especially those aging out of the foster-care system.
It was through the Community Partership for Children’s mentor program that Jen met and mentored Stacy
Mosby. Stacy was 16 at the time and was nearing the end of her time in foster care. Before she aged out, the Vickaryous family welcomed Stacy into their home and served as her legal guardians. Stacy is now 27, living in New York, and paying it forward in her work with Young Life, an adolescent faith-based outreach program.
Jen also serves as a mentor for the Support our Scholars program, which partners mentors with female college students. The mentors support the young women both financially and through much-needed moral support. A certified financial planner (CFP), Jen also mentors prospective female planners through the CFP Board WIN-to-WIN program.
Jim, meanwhile, is active in assisting the homeless, most notably with the Rescue Outreach Mission, the only emergency homeless shelter in Seminole County, where he served on the board from 2008 to 2016. Jim was instrumental in creating the mission’s Rescue Run fundraiser, and his law firm continues to support the 5K as its title sponsor. To date the firm has donated more than $100,000 to the mission.
His involvement with the Rescue Outreach Mission began when Jim attended his first Seminole County Bar luncheon and discovered that the lunch had been cancelled. Not wanting 100 meals to go to waste, Jim took them to the Rescue Outreach Mission, where he met the founder’s daughter, Sylvia, who graciously accepted the meals for the residents.
A Perfect Pair
It was Jen’s connection with the Rotary Club of Lake Mary, where she’s been a member since 2013, that brought the Sock Boys together. Tanner created the Annual Holiday Sock Drive in 2009 and, before he left for college last year, actively searched for another local teen with a caring heart to whom he could pass the torch. While a number of people expressed interest in heading up the charity, Tanner chose Evan because of the relationship Tanner’s mom built with Jen through the Rotary Club.
The two boys and their parents met in the dining room of the Vickaryous home for an interview of sorts.
“It was like a little board meeting in there,” laughs Jim.
“Tanner asked me if I wanted to take this over, and I said yes,” recalls Evan, who admits that he was nervous at first – after all, running a charity effort is no small feat, especially for a 13-year-old.
If Evan was uneasy, it didn’t show, and it certainly didn’t affect the results of the 2017 Sock Drive.
“Last year was absolutely amazing,” Evan says with pride. “We received 7,000 pairs of socks.”
Why socks? Evan explains that new socks are one of the least donated but most needed items for those in shelters, foster homes, or low-income households. The Sock Drive seeks to provide this crucial item to various organizations that help children in need in Seminole County, including the Rescue Outreach Mission, the Boys & Girls Clubs branch in Sanford, Children’s Home Society, and the Foundation for Foster Children, as well as various group foster homes.
To gather the socks, Evan secured 50 disposable trash bins donated by Waste Pro USA. Evan decorated each bin with help from his friend Andrew Collard, wrapping them in festive holiday wrapping paper and adorning each with flyers explaining what to put inside and where the socks will go. The bins are distributed to various schools, businesses, and organizations throughout Seminole County (including the lobbies of both Jen’s and Jim’s businesses, of course). This year’s bins will go out in early November and will be collected around Thanksgiving to have the socks in kids’ hands by early December.
Once the socks are collected, the Vickaryous family’s real work begins. Last year, Irelyn pitched in as well to help sort thousands of pairs in the garage.
“With all the different types of socks, the first step is sorting by age and gender,” says Jen.
“We took all 50 of last year’s boxes, and we turned that two-car garage into a sock processing center,” recalls Jim.
The family was joined by Evan’s friend Andrew and neighbors Rayle and Graham Vaughn – and they sorted. And sorted. And sorted some more. The crew saw them all – from basic athletic socks to socks with fun, colorful patterns. Irelyn, now nine years old, says she likes the soft, fluffy socks the best.
Once the socks are sorted, the family reaches out to the receiving organizations to ask what specific needs they have, and custom sock donation bags are created for each organization.
While last year’s drive was certainly a success, Evan wants to double the number of socks he collects in 2018. This year’s goal of 14,000 pairs, he says, is attainable because of the support he’s received in the community.
“Since this serves our community, we’re looking to use our community to help,” Evan says. “We want to spread the word, and we’re looking for businesses and organizations willing to take a donation box.”
Evan plans to seek help and donations from his Boy Scout troop and wants to focus on asking businesses along International Parkway in Lake Mary to host collection bins. He also plans to seek out student ambassadors who will head up donation efforts at their own schools.
“We are incredibly proud of Evan for his desire to take this project on,” says Jen. “It’s a big project that helps benefit many children in our community.”
Having been raised in such a philanthropic family environment has clearly had an impact on Evan. “It inspires me,” he says. And it’s inspiring Irelyn, too.
When her parents mention that someday, perhaps, Irelyn may take the reins of the Sock Drive, she smiles.
Maybe,” she says, “I’ll be the Sock Girl!”
To get involved or place a sock-collection box at your business or organization, call Jen Ferguson at 386-316-9049 or email AnnualHolidaySockDrive@gmail.com.
Want More Information?
To make an early sock donation, drop them off at 1515 International Parkway. The box will be in the lobby.