The Christmas tree at Magnolia Lutheran Church was decorated with socks last year. The decorations were a reminder of the church’s 10,000 socks drive. Photo courtesy of Deborah Moser-Dolen

The Christmas tree at Magnolia Lutheran Church was decorated with socks last year. The decorations were a reminder of the church’s 10,000 socks drive. Photo courtesy of Deborah Moser-Dolen

The Magnolia Lutheran Church has given itself five months to collect and donate 10,000 socks to people in need in Seattle.

The church (2414 31st Ave. W.) has collected about 3,500 socks already, which have been distributed to the Compass Housing Alliance Hygiene Center (77 S. Washington St). 

The Rev. Kevin Bates, the church’s pastor, met with leaders from Compass, who told him “around here, socks are gold.” After learning that there are 10,000 people who are homeless in the city, Bates and his congregation set the goal to donate as many socks. 

(On Jan. 24, the One Night Count volunteers counted 3,117 homeless people on the streets of Seattle. Even though those numbers are up from last year, they don’t account for the homeless who spend their nights inside shelters or other organizations.)

“We imagined what it would be like to respond by giving a ‘gift of gold’ to our neighbors in need,” he said. 

The sock drive started on Oct. 20 and will continue until March 20.  

‘Mere compassion’

The congregation has embraced the mission with enthusiasm, Bates said, and even incorporated it into its Christmas decor. The sanctuary’s Christmas tree and garland were decorated with socks. The decorations were a way to remind everyone of the goal, said church and sock-drive committee member Deborah Moser-Donlen.

The church is also raising money to buy socks from manufacturers. It’s important to get a good deal, but it’s more important to make sure the socks are warm and thick, Moser-Donlen said. 

During Seattle’s damp and cold winter, it’s crucial to keep feet warm and dry. On the first level, collecting the socks is “just mere compassion,” Bates said, because it’s miserable to have cold, wet feet. 

“I know when my feet get cold and wet, I can get miserable,” he said. “However, I have a home where I can go home and change my socks — not everybody has that opportunity.” 

On a deeper level, Bates said, feet exposed to the harsh winter weather present health risks. Sometimes, people will use the socks as gloves or other ways to stay warm. The 10,000 socks are a reminder of the need, Bates said. 

“Here, we do not call it a homeless issue,” Bates said. “Here, we call it neighbors in need. Jesus calls us to love our neighbor.”

Moser-Donlen said the drive and helping those in need is part of the Christian calling. 

“We live in a very rich community,” she said. “It’s a very little thing to make sure everyone has socks. It’s a travesty of a First World country that we have people in the streets.” 

‘Simple but big difference

The neighbors in need will get their socks from Compass Housing Alliance. It serves 10,000 people each year and has 25 locations around Puget Sound. Its hygiene center allows people to take free showers daily, and there is free laundry service once a week. 

There’s a big need for socks because people tend to go through them quickly, said Mary Lindberg, community engagement coordinator for Compass. 

Ten thousand socks will make the donors feel good and let the recipients know someone cares, Lindberg said: “That many people will have something simple that makes a big difference in their life.”

Compass Housing Alliance gives away at least 6,000 pairs of socks each year. 

“[The socks are] something simple but really important,” Lindberg said. “[The donation] shows us you notice what we’re doing and notice the people that we serve. It’s really inspiring and uplifting.”  

Donna Hagstrom, chairperson of the church’s social action committee, said when she delivers the socks to Compass, the people waiting outside will help her carry the boxes in. 

“This may not be the biggest need they have, but you are filling a need,” she said.  

Gathering all 10,000 socks is a congregation-wide effort, Bates said, but the community is invited to donate socks, too. Donations can be dropped off at the church. 

Magnolia Lutheran Church is also doing a Sock Hop with the Magnolia Big Band on Feb. 18, from 7:30 to 10 p.m. Tickets are $20 at the door; the goal is to raise $2,500 to buy more socks. For more information, call (206) 284-0155. 

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