It started in 2015 with one drop-off box and the goal of collecting warm socks for homeless men.
That year the “Warm Their Feet” sock drive, mounted by the St. Joseph Masonic Lodge 437 and Lakeshore Lodge 298, received around 100 pair that were delivered to the men’s shelter at the Salvation Army in Benton Harbor.
Since then, the effort has totaled around 2,300 pair, including 1,600 last year, increasing the number of donations every year, and expanding the number of donation sites and the organizations that benefit.
This year’s goal is 2,000 pair, said Jerry Sirk, of Benton Township, who started the drive at the St. Joseph lodge.
This year’s drive, continuing through mid-December, has nine drop-off sites and has added the Michigan Department of Health and Human Service’s foster child program to its list of recipients. Other beneficiaries are the Salvation Army shelter; the Emergency Shelter for women and children; and West Michigan Guardianship for vulnerable adults in Berrien, Cass and Van Buren counties.
Sirk said he always remembers the story he heard of a homeless man wrapping his feet in duct tape because he didn’t have any other way to keep his feet dry.
The foster kids were a natural fit for the sock drive. Many times these young people are placed in foster homes with few or no possessions, Sirk said.
The Department of Health and Human Services was “more than willing to accept” the donation of socks, Sirk said. Sirk even got his podiatrist’s office on board this year.
The donations not only provide a practical need, but they show people in difficult situations that somebody cares, especially around the holidays, Sirk commented.
The Full Circle Cafe, at 5729 St. Joseph Ave. in downtown Stevensville, is one of the new drop-off sites. Jayme Bendoski, who has owned the cafe with her husband, Ryan, for about three and a half years, said they were happy to step up and help out.
“This is what we do,” she said of the restaurant’s commitment to community service. “It’s why we’re here. We try to give a little something. It’s such a great cause. And it’s a most-needed item.”
The Bendoskis have contributed to Meals on Wheels, the Blossomtime pageant and local sports teams, she said.
Jayme suggested that customers check their social media sites for news on special incentives for donating to the sock drive.
Other drop-off sites are:
• BP Station, 4107 Red Arrow Highway, Stevensville
• Foot & Ankle Associates, 3800 Hollywood Road, Suite 103, St. Joseph
• Chartreuse Gallery, 304 State St., St. Joseph
• Red Coach Donuts, 5811 St. Joseph Ave., Stevensville
• Silver Harbor Brewing, 721 Pleasant Ave., St. Joseph
• Joe’s Cafe, 4100 M-139, Royalton Township
• Redbud Fitness, 500 E. Third St., Buchanan
• Mason Jar Cafe, 210 Water St., Benton Harbor
In addition to the sock drive, members of the Masonic lodges ring the bell at the kettles for the Salvation Army, provide Christmas gifts for the children at the Safe Shelter, partner with the Boys and Girls Club in a “Bikes for Books” program, and help provide a camping experience for a troop of Boys Scouts in Benton Harbor.
For information about donations, contact Jerry Sirk at 934-7475.
Contact: jmatuszak@TheHP.com, 932-0360, Twitter: @HPMatuszak