For many individuals, Feb. 14 is a day to celebrate their sweethearts and warm the emotions of their loved ones. But for Berks Encore Centers, the date will serve as a day to warm the feet of the homeless.
In conjunction with a sock drive, which has a goal of receiving 300 pairs of socks, the six senior center locations are collecting the clothing goods to donate the items for the homeless individuals at Hope Rescue Mission and Opportunity House, both in Reading.
The sock drive, for which the senior centers began receiving donations on Jan. 15, runs until Feb. 14, which is deemed “National Socks for the Homeless Day” in Pennsylvania. The February day received the designation following the efforts of Pa. State Senator Daylin Leach (D-17th District) to bring awareness to state residents of the health risks posed to homeless people by a lack of clean, dry socks.
“Socks are a vital barrier to all sorts of disease and injury,” said Leach, in a memorandum to fellow Pa. Senate members. “The health of a homeless person could very well hinge on their access to a clean, dry pair of socks.”
The state senator became aware of the clothing need for the homeless in Pa. through the nonprofit organization The Joy of Sox. The nonprofit, founded by Radnor resident and Chestnut Hill College business professor Tom Costello, Jr., provides new socks for the homeless throughout the state.
Costello said many established charities will provide all types of clothing for the homeless but rarely do the donations include socks. When he first became aware of the need and handed out the clothing items for the first time, his interaction with a homeless woman tugged at his heart and urged him to begin his nonprofit.
Emotions also played a part in Berks Encore’s involvement with the donation of socks.
“We adopted this as a ‘feel good’ project,” said Terry Becker, Hamburg Berks Encore center manager. “We’ve been trying to do some, what we call, ‘feel good’ projects. Over the Christmas holiday we adopted an angel from the angel tree at my church. So we adopted him and I asked everybody to bring something in and then we forward that to the Salvation Army. So this is our second ‘feel good’ project where we want to help those less fortunate.”
Becker said she would like to see the Hamburg center donate at least 30 pairs of socks toward the overall goal of 300. She received two pairs of socks on the first day of the drive: one pair of athletic socks and one dress pair.
She said the center, which is also accepting sock donations from community members along with seniors, will receive either packs or single pairs of socks, as long as they are new. Becker noted that the shelters are looking for mostly men’s socks, but she believes some pairs for women and children are a good idea as well.
“I have a bin here. If anyone wants to bring in a new pair of socks, we’ll take the donation here and then we will see that it gets to the right person,” said Becker.