By Jenny Neyman
The kids at Soldotna Church of God do not have cold feet when it comes to helping their community. As a result, people in need receiving services at Central Peninsula Hospital and its associated facilities won’t have cold feet, either.
“When I came in Monday morning I found all 600 pairs in my office,” said Kathy Gensel, director of the Central Peninsula Health Foundation, who will help distribute the 620 pairs of socks donated by the church to various departments in the hospital.
“I think we’ll be able to disperse them through the emergency room, through Serenity House and their transitional living program, through the SART-SANE, which is the sexual assault folks, and then also through Heritage Place,” she said.
Rachael Verba is a nurse in the emergency room, where many of the socks will go to the homeless people who come through the department.
“A lot of times we’ll get the homeless patients in, and socks are the one thing when you take them off you just don’t want to have to put them back on patients,” Verba said. “It was definitely appreciated because we have many homeless in the summer or just transient people that come through that can really use them.”
There are kids and adult sizes, men’s and women’s, from plain, serviceable white to solids, stripes, polka dots and about any other color and pattern under the rainbow.
“And now we can actually match it to outfits. We have options,” she said.
A heart-shaped note is safety-pinned on each pair, with a Bible verse on one side and a drawing or handwritten note from one of the kids on the other. That’s the kind of detail that helps personalize the donation. It’s one thing to run a donation drive and have the kids just bring the socks to the hospital. But for Maria Chythlook, children’s pastor at the church, it’s much more a meaningful message to have the kids think about who will receive the socks and what their efforts will mean for the recipients.
“We want to get the kids out in the community, we want them to learn that no matter how small you are, you can make a difference,” Chythlook said.
The church runs a Destiny Kids vacation bible school in the summer and over spring break. Chythlook wanted a community outreach component, so she asked Verba in the emergency department if there was anything the kids could do to help. Over spring break the youth collected donations for mission bags — sacks with toys, toiletries and other items for kids — and gave them to the hospital and fire department for distribution.
“The kids brought that in. It was wonderful,” Verba said. “We’ve been passing them out all summer. And then she asked if there were any more needs that we were aware of.”
So the drive was on to collect socks for the summer vacation Bible school program. Chythlook put a big bucket in the church lobby and spread the word through the youth program, in the church bulletin, in the youth and adult newsletters, on flyers and during the Sunday services.
“It was a church effort and, actually, we had people that don’t go to our church that found we were doing it that were giving socks to our church members to bring in. We had kids coming it with socks that their aunts and uncles and grandparents and neighbors had given them. So it became a community thing, actually,” Chythlook said.
The kids cut out, decorated, prayed over and affixed the hearts to the socks, and last weekend the bags and bags and bags of donations were brought to the hospital.
“They love it. They can’t wait for our next project,” Chythlook said.
And what might that be? Next spring break will probably be more mission bags, but beyond that, Chythlook is open to ideas that help open the kids to the idea that even little people can make a big difference.
“We love our kids and we want our kids to love our community,” she said.