July 1, 2015

Socks for Souls

Doctors' Volunteer Clinic of St. George receiving Socks for Souls donation

Doctors’ Volunteer Clinic of St. George receiving Socks for Souls donation

By SGHW Magazine Staff

Just as a small, seemingly insignificant stone has the potential to create ripples across a vast body of water, one small act of kindness can have a ripple effect, reaching places we never knew we could, leaving this world a better place. The most successful human endeavors often begin as small gestures of genuine kindness and evolve into global operations of love that change lives, touch hearts, and save souls. Kelly and Colleen Kendall were two small stones whose acts of kindness touched the life of one 20 year old homeless man, and together they have created ripples of positive change that are affecting thousands.

Last December, on a cold day just before Christmas, the Kendalls decided to pay it forward in a small way by sharing food with the homeless. “It was really not very much, and we really hesitate sharing what we like to do because we like to do it anonymously, but it was at least one meal for a few people,” shares Kelly. “You certainly can’t change the world all at once but you can do something.”

As they walked among those sleeping under tarps and trees in the park that day, Kelly happened upon a young man who would change not only their lives, but thousands of others. After talking to him for a moment, Kelly got back in the car and told Colleen about him, mentioning that he was about their son’s age. She immediately grabbed another hamburger and said, “Well, then he needs two!” and jumped out of the car. She knelt down next to him, touched his arm and said softly, “Where is your mother?” He began to cry, and told her that his mother was no longer in his life, and that his father was in prison. Through tears, he shared his story. He had had a good job, an apartment, a truck, a girlfriend, and a baby girl who he adored, but because of getting involved with drugs he had lost everything. “Even though I’m here in the park, homeless, I am a good person,” he said.

Colleen was touched, and promised him that they would find him again. After much discussion about how they could help him, the Kendalls decided to try to find him again through social media. Amidst the thousands of “Nate Sorenson” profiles on Facebook, after saying a prayer, they miraculously found his profile. Kelly sent him a short message, not sure if he would get a reply. Nate immediately responded, “Thank you so much for the food.” They then asked him to help them know what the real needs are in the homeless community and shelters by asking around and getting back to them. A few days later, Nate sent a powerful one word message: “Socks.” Then another message came, “Socks are Gold,” and then another, “We would rather have socks than food.” The Kendalls felt impressed to begin collecting socks immediately to distribute to those in need. That simple message, “Socks,” evolved into a nonprofit organization: Socks for Souls.

“As you can imagine, the homeless don’t have many options to do laundry, so a pair of socks is worn for as long as possible before they become too wet, soiled, or literally wear off their feet,” says Colleen. “Most of them wear donated shoes that don’t fit quite right and cause sores as well as create bacteria that grow, especially in the summer and on hot days. Most of us put on clean socks daily, and can’t imagine what it would be like to wear a pair of socks for a week let alone a month.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, in cold enough conditions, frostbite can occur in thirty minutes or less. Warm, well-fitting socks can prevent this for many people. Even in warmer weather, bacteria and fungi thrive in warm, moist environments. Access to clean, dry socks can go a long way in avoiding foot infections and are a vitl part of keeping feet healthy.

Donation sites are being set up around the community, county, and state of Utah. Currently there is one at the Washington City Community Center. “We even have individuals showing up on our doorstep with arms full of socks, baskets full of socks and even a box of socks with 168 pair of new socks mailed by an individual in New York City!” shares Kelly, enthusiastically, and continues, “We are asking for those that are able to donate to help those in need in our communities. For those who are not able to purchase socks to donate but would like to donate money to buy socks, you can go to our GoFundMe account. We are also setting up a bank account at Zion’s Bank for those who would like to donate a few dollars each month to help put clean new socks on the feet of those without, and every penny goes toward purchasing new socks.”

Their goal is to get everyone in the community to donate just one pair per month, which would be enough to put socks on those in their community with bare feet. They are currently distributing the socks at Switch Point, Dixie Care & Share, The DOVE Center, the Doctors’ Volunteer Clinic in Southern Utah, and other similar locations throughout Utah.

“Having the basic necessities brings personal dignity to those who are struggling and having challenges,” says Colleen. “Many times we pass by homeless people and they become invisible. They are also judged as ‘beggars’ who simply should go get a job. If we only knew the real story behind their unkempt appearance we would think twice about not only judging them but also we would be inspired to donate socks for their feet.”

One in forty-five children in the United States of America experience homelessness every year. Many are veterans with PTSD, others have lost their job, home and family and still others are enduring various mental and emotional illnesses. Sometimes it only takes someone caring enough to give a hand up to change a life forever. “We are not suggesting a ‘hand out’ but a ‘hand up’ with the basics of life we often take for granted,” says Kelly. “Giving service is one of the best ways to forget our own struggles and know that we are making a difference in the lives of those less fortunate. Giving service literally makes our own problems and challenges seem much easier to overcome.”

According to the Kendalls, the impact of so many generous people who have donated and continue to donate is immediate and ongoing. They are grateful for the “Sock Angels” who have donated socks and money for the many Souls with new Socks! Nate Sorenson, the inspiration behind “Socks for Souls,” now has an apartment, is receiving treatment for addiction, has reconnected with his daughter and grandparents, and is working toward becoming certified as a personal trainer. He is also on the Board of Directors for “Socks for Souls,” and doing great things to pay it forward.

Each of us has within us the potential to create ripples of positive change. It’s like Kelly says, “At the end of the day, when those with less than us are having difficulties, sometimes they just need a little hope. And a pair of socks!”

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