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One Small Silver Lining: Completed Sock Drive for Homeless Brings Comfort as We Wait Out COVID-19

Tania Ortega-Cowan

While we stay at home to slow the spread of COVID-19, we can create a sense of safety and security by really appreciating life’s simple comforts. There’s the morning coffee. A nap with your faithful dog. How about your favorite pair of socks?

BS: Right now, there are children that have brightly colored, comfortable socks on their feet. It’s a good feeling.

That’s Indian River County resident and artist Barry Shapiro.

In the weeks before the virus closed us down, Shapiro delivered over 2,600 pairs of fresh, new socks to charities helping the homeless, the hungry and young people most in need of basic things… things we may take for granted, like socks.

It’s a Wednesday afternoon, February 26. Social distancing – it’s not yet a thing, so we stop by Shapiro’s art studio in historic downtown Vero Beach where he’s sorting the giant stockpile.

BS: This is the second year that I’ve done this.

He plans to give the socks to 7 charities along the Treasure Coast and New York City. Shapiro grew up in the Bronx and has many loved ones in the northeast being dramatically affected by COVID-19.

He got the idea for the sock drive from a childhood friend who started…

BS: …a charity in New Jersey to collect coats for the homeless.

He did some homework and found…

BS: …the #1 item usually requested in homeless shelter is socks and underwear and I thought – socks – we gotta be able to do that!

He put the word out on social media. People began dropping off socks. Businesses got involved. Soon there were a dozen collection boxes around Indian River County.

BS: And then I started getting shipments in the mail!

With us at the studio is Theresa Baxter. 

TB: It’s going to be beneficial to my program which is the Beyond Special K at the Gifford Youth Achievement Center.

She also works with Our Father’s Table Soup Kitchen.

TB: He said he has diabetic socks, so some people are diabetic that need those types of socks. 

BS: Look at this – for the infants – these are beautiful – little duckies!

So, now it’s a few days later. Monday, March 2. Sock delivery day.

We meet at the Hope for Families Center. He carries a large cardboard moving box filled to the rim with socks.

TOC: Kind of heavy! Let me get the door.. We are we almost there!

BS: We’re almost there? Good?

Voices inside the Center: Hello! Socks! Debbie! YAY!!! This is Deborah, one of our case managers.

BS: Hi Deborah!

D: Yay! Socks!

BS: We have crew socks, athletic socks, dress socks… people who need to go to work.

Afterward, back in the parking lot, his face gets serious.

BS: We’re all just one catastrophic accident away or illness from being on the streets ourselves.

Wow. Then came COVID-19. We called him Monday to check in. He’s in Vero Beach, not New York City where he’s supposed to be opening his latest art show in Brooklyn. It hurts emotionally and financially.

BS: Would have been a big deal. People would have been coming over to see the art and hopefully buying the art. Uh…. But… uh… now… the gallery is closed.

Looking toward the bright side, he’s thankful…

BS: …that we were able to complete the sock drive and distribute all of the socks – 2,647 pairs plus socks – before all of this happened so that people would have access. Would get these things and be able to put them to use. That’s at least one small silver lining.