'She wants to put a smile on the faces of these seniors, one pair of socks at a time.'
In early 2020, just before the pandemic shut everything down, teenager Elle Gianelli was out helping out at a local nursing facility for an arts and crafts event along with her mom Rachelle Gianelli. The next week, "the whole world shut down," Rachelle recalls to PEOPLE. The mother-daughter duo was thinking while they sat around in the lockdown. They thought about seniors at nursing homes and senior centers and young Elle really wanted to do something about those seniors "stuck in their rooms without visitors or activities." Rachelle recalls, "Then it hit us to send them the socks."
The now-16-year-old started Socks4Seniors, gathering money via GoFundMe to buy and give cheerful, patterned socks and considerate letters to individuals in assisted living homes, with the aim of reaching people in all 50 states, out of her enthusiasm for wearing crazy socks on the golf course. (She has so far covered 40.)
In her GoFundMe, Elle explains that she loves silly socks and helping out elders of the community, "Silly socks have always been a passion of mine bringing a smile to my face and my hope is, especially in these crazy times, to give some seniors of our community and in all 50 states something to smile about. I personally provide silly socks to seniors living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities along with a note from me letting them know that they're being thought of and hoping the socks can be a reminder of that."
Rachelle says, "For such a small investment of her time, the impact is overwhelming. She wants to put a smile on the faces of these seniors, one pair of socks at a time." In Stockton, California, Elle started by scattering parcels locally until she and her mother decided to "make a geography lesson out of it," as Rachelle quips. They did this by looking up an assisted living facility online in each state, and from there, things just took off. Rachelle adds that Elle maintains contact with some of the seniors she has met and that right now, "she receives requests from all over the world."
Since being featured on PEOPLE, Elle has updated her GoFundMe, sharing that she's thankful for people who have supported her. "Big news as Socks4Seniors is in People Magazine this week. Thanks to each and every one of you that has aided me in putting smiles on our seniors one pair of socks at a time. We’ve just begun and the impact we can make is endless."
Rachelle explains, "Since, sadly over time, residents in these places change, there's always a need. And what we've learned is that some seniors never have visitors, COVID aside. It's been eye-opening, and shows this small amount of our time can make such a difference." Elle shares her hopes for the future, "My hope is that one day in the near future I’ll be able to personally deliver each and every pair to our local facilities, but for now I’ll keep providing special notes with my socks."
Both mom and daughter don't intend to give more than socks, but as their generosity increases, they are looking into other innovative ways to generate money. As a result, Rachelle's pride in her daughter also increases. "Elle has always been the giving type," says Rachelle. "It's just something in her nature. I'm so proud."