Despite the challenges 2020 has brought for many, Gentle Ben's Socks for the Homeless made it another successful year for donations to help the Mid-Missouri community.
The nonprofit — now in its third year — set a goal to collect 5,000 pairs of socks to donate to area homeless shelters. With the coronavirus pandemic making it difficult to host fundraising events, the goal was initially lowered to last year's total of 3,000 — but ultimately, more than 4,500 pairs of socks were collected for local shelters.
Ed and Janet Miller, the nonprofit's founders and parents of the late "Gentle Ben," collect mostly new socks, which go toward the final donation count each year.
The nonprofit does also accept used, like-new socks that still have a lot of life left in them.
This year also saw several monetary donations compared to the past few years. Janet Miller said that money goes straight into purchasing more pairs of socks.
"We'll just go out and buy the socks, and 100 percent of the money that we collect goes towards socks; we don't keep anything for expenses. We take none of the money," Janet Miller said.
With the inability to host fundraisers this year, Gentle Ben's relied on local support. Collection bins were set up at Grind in California and Schulte's in Jefferson City, where community members were able to drop off socks or monetary donations.
Since the Millers originally hail from Marshall, a lot of donations were collected there, as well through the help of a friend. But since moving to California two and a half years ago, the community support for the nonprofit receives continues to grow, the Millers said.
So does the quantity of donations, giving Gentle Ben's the opportunity to help more shelters.
In its first year, the nonprofit's donations went to The Salvation Army in Jefferson City. In the two years since, donations have continued to go there and have extended to The Salvation Army in Columbia and Welcome Home in Columbia.
The Millers said they hope to continue to grow and to help as many people as possible. Depending on where socks are needed, they plan to add another shelter into the mix next year.
Donations are accepted year-round. For more information or to donate, visit gentlebenssocks.org.