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Video: How an 83-year-old Minnesota man collected 100,000 socks for the homeless

Dec 14, 2020 05:22AM ● By Editor

Watch the KSTP-TV Report here

Photo: KSTP-TV

By Richard Reeve of KSTP-TV Eyewitness News - December 13, 2020 

On a chilly Sunday afternoon, Bill Jechorek was definitely in his element. 

“Don’t be shy,” he exhorted one volunteer. 

“Have another bag there, there we go!” he encouraged another. 

For 20 years now, Jechorek has been collecting socks and donating them to homeless shelters in the metro. 

“I’m just following the gospel. Clothe the naked, that’s what we’re doing," the 83-year old New Brighton resident said. “They said we can’t solve the homeless problem, but we could collect socks.” 

Not just a few bags of socks — he's collected 100,000, by Jechorek’s count, over the past two decades. 

"We try to go for a mile of socks, which is 5,280 feet,” Jechorek said. “And we get pretty close to it, some years we've exceeded it."

Like this year, with 6,000 socks collected. 

The massive effort begins in late fall, through donations at Jechorek’s church, St. John the Baptist Catholic Church. The bags of donations are piled high in a tunnel. 

“We collect them during the whole month of November, and people bring them and just donate socks and we take them downstairs and sort them all out,” Jechorek said. “We put them in bags and count them, then we bag them and tag them and we start delivering them to the shelters.” 

The start of all that sock donating began 20 years ago, when he and some fellow parishioners from area churches took a tour of Twin Cities homeless shelters. Jechorek asked what the shelters need most. The answer: socks. So on Sunday, he and some volunteers were in a back parking lot of the Simpson Housing Services shelter in Minneapolis, unloading bags of them from a pickup. 

“I was amazed,” shelter director Robert Hofmann said. “We were the beneficiaries of about 4,000 pairs here, so that’s going to last us the entire year.” 

Now, with the temperatures falling, the mean season begins for those living on the street. 

"Anybody who's spent any portion of their day walking around with wet or dirty feet, wondering how they smell, knows what a difference a pair of socks can make,” Hofmann said.

Jechorek generally stops by five shelters in the metro to see how things are going.  At the Simpson shelter alone, some 70 men and women experiencing homelessness now have a roof over their heads.  The pandemic hasn’t made the situation any easier. 

“The numbers we’ve been seeing this year have been alarming,” said Steve Horsfield, executive director of Simpson Housing Services. “It has definitely gotten harder, worse in 2020 for sure.” 

Among those living at the Simpson shelter is 57-year old Lionell Edmonds, who’s seen his share of the cold. 

"It keep your feet warm, and since the buses aren't running, everybody got blisters on they feet,” he said. "If you gonna be on the street, it's going to get worse. You get to come to a place, give you warm stuff. So a definite deal is the socks.” 

White socks are the most frequent donations. Jechorek says there’s a simple reason for that. 

“If you have sores on your feet, you cannot wear a colored sock,” Jechorek said. “The dye in the sock works into the sore, so we emphasize white socks.”

“It’s been a strange year for everybody, a tough year,” Hofmann adds. “When I got the call from him, I was honestly surprised. Not only did he come through, he came through with more socks than he ever has before.” 

The collection effort isn’t done yet. Anyone who would like to donate more socks is asked to contact St. John’s and ask for Jechorek. 

“We see it on the news all the time, the people in the camps and that,” he says. “You find something that you can help with, and you do it.” 

He and his volunteers say they’re happy to do their part, adding a little warmth to the city streets. But Jechorek feels giving back has its own rewards.  

“You get a lot more than you give,” he smiles. “Because you know you’re doing something worthwhile that people need.” 

To see the original story and read related posts, follow this link to the KSTP-TV website.

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