Community

Warming heart and sole: groups collecting socks to ease winter's chill

John Slaughter of Cedar Rapids donates socks during an open house at Mary’s Farm Sanctuary in rural Lone Tree. The organization is pairing with Iowa City’s Shelter House to collect new socks through Nov. 12, to be distributed to people in need before winter’s chill sets in. Collection boxes have been placed around Johnson County, from University of Iowa sites to grocery stores, banks, libraries and businesses. (Mary’s Farm Sanctuary photo)
John Slaughter of Cedar Rapids donates socks during an open house at Mary’s Farm Sanctuary in rural Lone Tree. The organization is pairing with Iowa City’s Shelter House to collect new socks through Nov. 12, to be distributed to people in need before winter’s chill sets in. Collection boxes have been placed around Johnson County, from University of Iowa sites to grocery stores, banks, libraries and businesses. (Mary’s Farm Sanctuary photo)
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A chance meeting will soon take some bite — perhaps even some frostbite — out of the cold weather that’s just around the calendar corner.

Things are heating up already in two groups’ efforts to pair warm, dry socks with feet in need.

“My mom makes blankets for the Shelter House. She was in here one day donating, and a man was standing at the counter, and he asked for a pair of socks. So my mom then had a conversation about the need that a lot of shelters have for new pairs of socks, and it snowballed from there,” said Mary Dyroff, founder/manager of Mary’s Farm Sanctuary in rural Lone Tree.

Giving is part of the everyday life for Dyroff, who runs a nonprofit for horses and their ilk, goats, dogs and cats. The sanctuary also likes to be involved with community efforts, she said.

Iowa City’s Shelter House not only offers “a roof and a bed,” but helps improve the quality of life as people move beyond homelessness.

The two organizations are hoping to collect 500 pairs of new socks to be distributed by the Shelter House during National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week, Nov. 11 to 17.

The goal received a big boost this past week, when the farm sanctuary asked for sock donations in lieu of admission Oct. 21, during the final open house of the season. Along with socks dropped off by two people during the week, the sanctuary collected 166 pairs.

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“One of the main reasons why we do ask for socks is because it’s really important to have dry, warm feet,” said Angelica Vannatta, development director at the Shelter House. “When your feet are cold or wet, it’s really difficult to maintain a level of comfort or to maintain warmth. As we enter the winter months, it becomes a struggle for a lot of people experiencing homelessness — especially if they’re out on the street.”

Volunteers have decorated and distributed collection boxes throughout the University of Iowa, grocery stores, banks, libraries and other sites around Johnson County. Donations can be dropped in the boxes through Nov. 12, and the following day, sanctuary volunteers will gather them up and deliver them to the Shelter House for distribution.

Any sock types and sizes are welcome, but the need is especially urgent for adult socks designed for warmth over fashion.

“As long as they’re warm, that’s key for us,” Dyroff said. The most popular are the heavy crew socks that come in packages of multiples, like six or more, Vannatta said.

The majority of the shelter clients are adults, she added, with just 16 percent being children.

“Typically, over the course of a year, we’re serving over 1,100 individuals,” Vannatta said. She added that many in the community aren’t aware of the organization’s drop-in services.

“Anyone in the community can come in and get a pair of socks or get a coat or a hat and mittens,” she said, noting that last year, more than 300 utilized the drop-in services, and about 140 people used the winter emergency shelter.

“When we talked with Mary about doing the sock drive, we also thought it would be a great opportunity to do it during National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week,” she said. “It’s really an opportunity for more organizations and agencies in the community to come together and discuss some of these issues facing food insecurities and homelessness — to do the advocacy, outreach and education. That’s why we selected that particular week to move forward with this.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8508; diana.nollen@thegazette.com

To donate

l What: Fall Sox Drive by Mary’s Farm Sanctuary and Shelter House

l Needed: New, warm socks, especially in adult sizes

l When: Collection boxes out through Nov. 12 in Johnson County sites

l Iowa City/Coralville: Ace Hardware on North Dodge Street, Ann Connors Dentistry, Big Grove Brewery, Buzz Salon, College Board-Coralville, Englert Theatre, Fareway on Commerce Drive, Her Soup Kitchen, Hollywood Graphics, Home Ec Workshop, Hy-Vee stores in Iowa City and Coralville, Iowa City Public Library, John’s Grocery, Prairie Lights Books, Ragstock, Southeast Middle School, Zion Lutheran Church

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l University of Iowa: Art & Art History, Engineering, Gender Studies, Journalism, International Writing Program, Music, Native American Studies, Office of the VP for Research and Economic Development, Obermann Center for the Humanities, Political Science

l Johnson County: Hills Banks on Main Street in Hills, South Gilbert Street in Iowa City, Kalona and Wellman branches; Lone Tree Community School; Nichols Massage & Wellness in Nichols; Solon Public Library

l Mail: Send to Mary’s Farm Sanctuary Inc., 5630 Wapello Ave. SE, Lone Tree, IA 52755

l Details: www.marysfarm.org/events

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