Teen 'Socks It' to the Homeless
Seven years ago, when Jessica Burris was 12 years old, a neighbor who is a nurse and who worked with indigent people told her that the homeless often suffer from foot infections because many have no shoes and socks.
Burris and her family began collecting socks in their hometown in Conyers, Ga. In her first year, she collected 3,000 pairs of socks.
The next year, Burris collected 4,500 pairs and distributed them, along with toiletries, to the Georgia Nurses Foundation.
That year, Burris' "Sock It to Me" project earned top-10 honors in USA Weekend Magazine's "Make a Difference Day" program.
In 1997, Burris, a member of Conyers Church, organized a carnival to raise money for area homeless shelters and the local cancer hospice. She also enlisted 3,700 other townspeople to collect thousands of items, from books to blankets, as well as 4,000 pairs of socks and $800 to buy medicines for those who couldn't afford them. These selfless acts earned her an "Encore Award" in 1997 from the "Make a Difference Day" program and $2,000 for the Georgia Nurses Foundation.
To date, the 19-year-old college sophomore has collected more than 20,000 pairs of socks and hopes to continue her ministry indefinitely. She also plans to start a scholarship in memory of her mother, who died of cancer in 1997, and has already raised funds for the hospice in her mother's memory.
--Heather Peck Stahl, Nashville, Tenn., is a freelance writer and editor.