When setting aside clothes to donate, most people ignore their old socks. But even if they're used, a free pair of socks can make a huge difference to someone who needs them—especially as the weather gets colder. According to The Columbus Dispatch, one local nurse has found a way to take advantage of one of the biggest resources of secondhand socks out there: hospitals.

Kathy Francis first became aware of just how many perfectly wearable pairs of socks are thrown out by hospitals each day after her own hospital stay for back surgery. If a patient doesn't want to take their hospital-provided socks home, the pair gets tossed straight in the trash—even if they were only worn for a few days. Once it was her own barely worn socks being thrown in the trash, Francis realized how wasteful the current system is.

When she began working at OhioHealth Dublin Methodist Hospital six months after her surgery, socks were still on her mind, so she asked her employer if she could salvage them. That was eight years ago, and she has helped donate an estimated 13,000 pairs of socks to people in need since then.

After used socks are deposited in one of the hospital's utility closets, Francis collects them (about 35 pairs a week), washes them at home with a little bleach, folds them, and stores them in brown paper bags. She then drops off the bags at the office of Tony Bonacci, a deacon at the local St. Joseph Catholic Church, and he delivers them to the soup kitchen where he volunteers.

Socks are often the most-requested clothing item at homeless shelters. Since hospital socks are designed to be thicker and warmer than regular socks and come with non-skid rubber grips, they're great candidates for donation.

Francis's sock recovery program is currently limited to the surgery and recovery unit where she works, but she'd like to see it expand to the rest of the hospital, as well as hospitals elsewhere.

[h/t The Columbus Dispatch]