Socially responsible giving changes lives
Yes, it’s fine to give donations, Coyle explains, but when you give your personal time and actions to put a smile on the faces of the recipients during the holidays, you’re really immersed in the joy of compassionate volunteering.
“This program is completely different because it doesn’t collect money, it collects socks,” he says. “It doesn’t take a lot of time and doesn’t take a lot of money.”
Socks for Seniors can be just one box for collecting new socks. This is a perfect program for volunteer organizations, schools, churches and businesses, says Coyle. Single families can even do it, getting their kids involved in helping others.
The national headquarters in Columbus will provide logos and marketing materials. They will even connect you to a Phoenix metro nursing home or community center for a sock giveaway.
To connect with the sock drive program, visit socksforseniors.com.
What is so great about Socks for Seniors is that program start-up time can be short.
“A lot of the programs wait until the week before Christmas to start collecting and distributing socks,” Coyle says.
What many program managers have learned in past years is that older adults don’t just want grip-bottoms or tube socks in sensible colors to warm their tootsies.
Coyle relates the story of Emma Mae, a 91-year-old nursing home resident. When giving her a choice of socks at the distribution, she chose brightly colored, striped toe socks.
“We’re just old, not dead, and we still have a sense of humor,” she said. “I want those!”
Caring for the caregivers
Caregiving for anyone else is hard work demanding constant attention. But, if you are an untrained relative – grandparent, older sibling or other family member – providing care to children too young to fend for themselves, the responsibility can be overwhelming.
Irene Cañez is a grandparent who raised her grandchildren. She took on this great obligation because of the parents’ drug and alcohol abuse and the resulting domestic violence.
Desperate for help in 2004, Irene contacted the nearby Golden Gate Community Center for support for her frazzled self and husband. That’s where she connected with the KARE program of the Arizona Children’s Association.
KARE centers around the state offer resources such as caretaking and advocacy training, counseling, legal advice, and adult and youth groups for peer support.
Irene decided to start a KARE center at the Golden Gate Center because she knew of others in the same tough situation of being in their retirement years and having to raise young kids once again.
“I needed help,” she recalls, “I knew five other families all there for the same reason. Now there are about 30 to 45 families that attend each month. We are able to offer each other support, letting one another know we are all going through the same stresses. The group has been a blessing.”
Now Cañez leads the “Time to Share” support group at Golden Gate. She is president of the KARE grandparent advisory board. She also is an instructor in the Kinship Care training program sponsored by the state Child Protective Services and a mentor to other caregivers.
She was influential in the 2007 statewide Grandfamilies Rally that resulted in legislation to provide grandparent caregivers extra financial help to care for their grandchildren. She has been a force in advocacy for the Grandfamilies Housing in south Phoenix.
Only one grandchild of the four she was raising remains with her. She says her commitment to the kids has been rewarded since the other three became adults and left her home.
“Oh my God, it’s wonderful what they say now,” she says. “They come back and tell me, ‘You’re my mom. You raised me.’ I would do it again in a heartbeat.”
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