Newell-Hoerling’s Mortuary is hosting its third-annual Warm Hearts and Feet Sock Drive through the month of February. In collaboration with Gather Church, the drive is designed to collect socks of all colors and sizes for members of the community in need. 

The drive collected well over 1,000 pairs of socks in 2019, according to Lori Keilwitz, funeral director and embalmer for Newell-Hoerling’s Mortuary. The socks were then donated to Gather. 

Keilwitz hopes the drive can help anyone who needs it. 

“It’s a wonderful way to help our community,” She said. “A lot of these people aren’t just transients like people think. These are our people that are homeless and have hit hard times, so I like the idea of getting the whole community together to help. The more people, the more of an impact it makes.” 

It’s the third year the duo of Newell-Hoerling and Gather is putting on the drive. But through Feb. 5, Warm Hearts and Feet is still waiting for its first donation.

As far as getting the word out about the drive, Keilwitz says the effort is centered around social media. 

“We start with Facebook and then Gather Church shares it.” Keilwitz said. “I think 3,000 people saw it last year.” 

From there, the marketing of the drive relies on a more grassroots approach. 

“We go from church to church and ask if they can hang a flier up, as well,” Keilwitz said. “We’re going to start making the rounds, we’re going to go to Goodwill and pick up a bunch of baskets and we’re going to start seeing if we can set them up at different churches.”

For now, though, all donations can be left at Newell-Hoerling’s Mortuary. There’s a basket conveniently placed in the front lobby of the building. 

“They can come right in and just (leave the socks) right (in the donation basket),” Keilwitz said. “They don’t have to even talk to anyone, but we’re here if they want to.”

As for Gather, its efforts with Warm Hearts and Feet are only the beginning. Every Tuesday, the church hosts an outreach event called Socks in the City. According to Gather’s website, you’re welcome to attend if “you need socks or food or are just looking for something to do and people to connect with.”

Gather Church Pastor Cole Meckle says it’s just one way the church uses the socks from the drive. 

“(Socks in the City), is our biggest sock distribution day,” Meckle said. “We (also) do some mobile harm reduction work, so we hand out socks there as well and through our normal clothing distribution, we’ll hand out socks then as well.”

The donated socks play a key role in Gather’s harm reduction initiative. That means meeting those in need where they are and providing them with various resources, sometimes socks, to help prevent any further harm. 

Drives, such as Warm Hearts and Feet, have allowed the church to reallocate funds that were formally spent on socks to help with more expensive needs, such as rent payments or utility bills. Providing people with socks has also served as a means of connecting those in need with people, like those at Gather, who care about them. 

“At the heart of what we do, we don’t look past connecting people with resources or bringing people resources,” Meckle said. “We see that as very valuable, but at the end of the day, we also want to connect with people relationally, to help them transition into something that’s better for them and for our community. 

“There’s something radically missing when that relational component isn’t present.” 

Donations are accepted through the end of February. Keilwitz encourages everyone who can, to help.

“I’ve been there, it’s hard,” Keilwitz said. “I went to school living in the back of a truck in the freezing cold and (people) were kind enough to help me out. As a CNA, I made hardly any money, living by yourself, you can’t make it. You lose your place to live, before you know it, you lose your job and then you’re just at the bottom and how you get out, it’s so hard. 

“A lot of these people are our people, you’re not just giving to transients or drug addicts. This is our community we’re helping and I think people forget that.”

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