Columbus, OH – Neatly stacked in shipping boxes, they take up most of Justice Promoter Barbara Kane’s office at the Dominican Sisters of Peace Motherhouse in Columbus, OH. Spread out end to end, they would cover the length of four football fields, colorful and emblazoned with stripes and flowers, super heroes and comic book characters. But to the refugees at the border with Mexico, these thousands of pairs of fresh, new socks and underwear are a luxury after weeks, and sometimes months, of walking in the same clothing day after day.
Sr. Barbara volunteered at Annunciation House, a ministry of welcome and compassion to refugees in El Paso, earlier this year, and was struck by the need that she saw while working there. “People are so generous, and donate lots of clothing,” she said. “But at Annunciation House, new socks and underwear are always needed. After all, would you want to wear socks and underwear that another person has worn? Are new items not the very least we can for these people who are working so hard to enter our country?”
Sr. Joye Gros, OP, who ministered at the border in February, saw the same need, and working with Sr. Barb, put out a challenge to the Dominican Sisters of Peace and the Congregation’s Associates and friends – to collect children’s socks and underwear to answer the ever-growing need as more than 250,000 family units seeking asylum have entered the United States in the last 6 months.
The response was enthusiastic. Across the country, from the Great Bend Motherhouse to associates in Massachusetts, the donations came in. Socks from toddler to teen, little undergarments with ponies and Ninja turtles, and gift cards to help buy even more. In total, more than 1,500 pairs of socks and nearly 1,600 pairs of underwear are being shipped to Annunciation House from the various ministries of the Dominican Sisters of Peace.
In the true spirit of Lent, for some, these gifts were a bit of a sacrifice. “I was saving up to buy a new outfit for Easter,” Dominican Sister of Peace Associate Pat Davis wrote. “But when I heard about this sock drive, I knew my money was better used helping these children.”
Others enjoyed the fun of buying clothing for little children – choosing girls socks with ruffles and flowers and sturdy little boy socks ready for soccer and baseball.
One of the Congregation’s schools took the drive a step further. Inspired by the many news reports that noted that refugees’ shoes are often laced together with bits of the foil blankets distributed at the detention centers, students at St. Mary’s Dominican High School in New Orleans collected more than 400 pairs of shoe laces, which were also sent to Annunciation House.
In her blog thanking the Congregation for their donations, Sr. Barbara quoted Vietnamese spiritual leader Thich Nhat Hanh:
“When we are a part of a spiritual community, we have a lot of joy and resist the temptation to be overwhelmed by despair . . . We all need a community to keep us from sinking into the swamp of despair . . . We need each other in order to practice solidity, freedom, and compassion so that we can remind each other that there is always hope . . . In community, we produce the powerful energy of peace.”
As the Sisters ship the boxes to the Annunciation House, they also send their prayers – prayers for the safety of these refugees, and prayers for peace.