The Development of the Socks N’ Sandwiches Street Ministry
I was in the ER at Hospital Center as a patient. Beds lined the hallways and I was fortunate enough to be in a bed next to another bed that had a woman I met for the first time who worked at S.O.M.E. (So Others Might Eat). There were some homeless men who had been brought in for medical care and the nurses were spraying them for either lice or their odor. The woman said look at their feet; I looked and saw that they had old shoes but no socks on their feet. She said that everyone feeds the homeless but they do not think that they are always on their feet walking from one place to another. As a matter of fact the woman I was talking to did not have socks on either as she had given her socks to a homeless woman before she came to the hospital. Thus this was the beginning of the Socks N’ Sandwiches Street Ministry.
The purpose of the Socks N’ Sandwiches Street Ministry is:
- To meet men and women living on the streets in their need
- To give them warmth and nourishment
- To provide the Word of God
- To give them love and peace
The Socks N’ Sandwiches Street Ministry is not all about me; it has to go beyond me. The purpose for this document is to outline for others how to carry on this ministry. This ministry started under Dynamic Crossroads and moved to Imani Temple but it should spread to other organizations near and far. It is a fairly simple ministry to carry out and should not be limited to the organization that started it. The ministry began with four volunteers who went out one Friday night in the winter and increased to 28 volunteers who went out three times in a winter (two Friday nights and one Saturday morning). We went from two vehicles to eight vehicles. I see this ministry traveling throughout the United States as there are so many in need. To those who can provide it is our responsibility to serve the least of these.
The SNS Street Ministry is made up of volunteers. The only pay received is the warmth in your hearts that you will feel at feeding those in need. Your volunteers can come from the church, schools, universities, neighborhoods, and corporations. The volunteers go out into the evening hours but also can go out on in the daylight. We go out in the evening hours because we are not looking to be noticed or given praise for what we do. Also the homeless find respite on grates, park benches, or in doorways. Try to get a list of your volunteers and contact information for them, preferably email addresses.
Criteria to be a volunteer:
- Strong enough to go out in the cold as this ministry is done in the winter months.
- Volunteers should be age 15 and up. Everyone should go to the grates, parks, doorways in pairs.
- Be prepared to give a hug to those who look shabby or have a foul odor.
- Are able to have a joyful conversation with the homeless or listen to what the homeless want to talk about.
- Be willing to collect donations and prepare sandwiches and other goods for transport.
How to Begin
Collect items to be given out:
- Socks (new of course) Wool socks are the best but men’s white gym tube socks will do even for women.
- Wool or skull hats (new)
- Wool gloves (men and women)
- Wool scarves
- Long johns for men and women (medium, large, extra large)
- If you have the storage, coats for men and women
Put out notices/flyers asking for donations. The more contacts you have the more items you will get. Include contact phone number and a drop off location. If your volunteers work you will have to schedule a drop off or pick up time. You will also need a storage location. Originally the items were stored in the Director’s home and then she ran out of space and moved to a church.
As a ministry records should be kept by the leader. Records include:
- A list of items and how many of each item
- A sign-in sheet for the volunteers with their contact information
- A list of those who donated and what they donated and how much
- Amount of cash donations and those donated also estimate cost of all clothing donations.
Be sure that the date of the event is on all records.
Food donations include:
- Bread (white and wheat)
- Mayo and mustard
- Lunch meat (baloney, ham, chicken, or turkey)
- Peanut butter and jelly (this was a big hit)
- Juice in carton’s with straws
- 8 oz. Bottled water (this is chosen over the juice)
- Donuts or cookies
- Chips (individual bags)
Volunteers should get together 2-3 hours before going to the streets to make sandwiches and bag up the goods. You may have to use the cash donations to purchase more socks, sandwiches, etc. You may have to purchase more goods to make more sandwiches. It would be beneficial to get plastic bins to store and deliver the items in.
It would be great to attach your group to a non-profit organization that has a 501c3 number that can be used for the SNS Ministry. If you ask different organizations for donations they often times want to know that you are legitimate by getting your 501c3 number. Dynamic Crossroads has done SNS for seven years and never had access to a 501c3. In that time we received donations from Safeway, the Dollar Store, Papa Johns pizza, and Giant stores. It would help to find out at least six months in advance their procedures for asking for donations.
Your group may want to give out coffee and/or soup. If you have no means of keeping things hot then you must heat the items up before going to the street. We carried out 5 large pots of soup. One of the volunteers purchased hot cup containers with lids and someone purchased spoons. We dished out the soup at each location where we stopped.
Prior to SNS Day
The leader of your SNS Ministry should go and drive around in the evening scouting out the locations where the homeless bed down on the streets; usually in downtown areas of cities. Write down street names as well as intersecting streets. Find a nearby homeless shelter where you can take what is left over at the end of the evening.
Prior to the day of distribution send out reminders to your list of volunteers giving them any updates about the day. Be sure to include the time that preparation will begin and when you anticipate going out to the streets. Remind the volunteers to bring gloves to put on to prepare sandwiches.
If items have not been counted prior to distribution day have a couple of volunteers do this. Set up an assembly line to begin preparing the sandwiches and have volunteers who will put sandwiches into baggies. Label the baggies: ham w/must; chicken w/mayo; PBJ; etc. Determine the best way to bag up and/or distribute the items for example in one bag: sandwich, donut, napkin and juice. If you are serving water the water may not fit into the bag depending on the size of the bag.
When you get your list of volunteers find out who has a vehicle and is willing to drive on SNS day. There should two and no more than three to a vehicle as you will need space to put the supplies. Each vehicle should have sandwiches and socks; other vehicles might have sandwiches, hats, gloves and another socks and blankets. If you have four in a vehicle then you can work out of your trunk.
The first time out, have the volunteers caravan to each location until they are comfortable. All drivers should have their blinkers on as they caravan through the city. If you can put posters on the cars or in the windows people will be patient with the caravan. The driver drives and the other person in the car look out for the homeless signaling a pull over. Unless you are in a location where there are a large number of homeless the drivers can stay behind the wheel and the riders can get out to distribute being careful of traffic. The great thing about going out in the evening there is less traffic. If you work with the same volunteers year after year you can break the caravan up by giving them one half of the locations and another team takes the other locations and then both teams meet up at the determined homeless shelter. To keep track of each other use your cell phones or if you have access to walkie-talkies. Make sure you get at least one person’s cell phone in each vehicle.
There will be times when you can send out scouts to locate the homeless then the scouts can call the caravan and tell them where to go.
When you arrive to the location and see the homeless, yell out, “SOCKS N SANDWICHES, SOCKS N’ SANDWICHES!” If you do this every year you will find that the homeless will become familiar with your efforts. Let the homeless know what supplies that you have. Depending on how much you have please give them more than one pair of socks and more than one sandwich.
Lookout for each other as you get to each location and approach the homeless in two’s or more. Do not placate them but treat them as a friend. If a homeless person turns down your offer for a sandwich or socks do not take it personally. There are some who just will not take a handout no matter what. You will encounter some who have psychological issues but many homeless are homeless because they are down on their luck. We have encountered men with BA’s, MA’s, and PhD’s who are homeless. It is not our place to judge just to serve. Treat the homeless as you would want to be treated. You will find that there are many women and children who are also homeless but most often it is the men who are on the grates.
When it is all over and everyone has gone their separate ways the head of the ministry should prepare thank you notes to all donors giving them information on the success of the evening and how you have them to thank for it. If you have the time you may want to do an online newsletter sharing the success of the evening, providing a list of the donors, and giving a tally of all that was donated along with the total cash donations and what the cash was used for. If a homeless person said something that stuck in your mind and would make a great quote use it in the newsletter. If you are able to take pictures of the volunteers even better; donors will want to see that the work is being carried out. If your group decides to go out more than once in a winter season then do the newsletter after the last outing. These newsletters can be used to get future donations and possible grant monies for future SNS days. We do not want praise in what we do but some things have to be recorded and shared if we are to get more and larger donations especially from corporations.
Hugs Around the Village
Hugs Around the Village is the children’s version of Socks N’ Sandwiches. The children go out in the day time to a homeless shelter. The parents set up tables outside with socks on one table and sandwich bags on the other tables. The children can take socks in hand and proclaim loudly, “SOCKS N’ SANDWICHES! SOCKS N’ SANDWICHES!” The homeless hearts are softened and gladdened by the young faces.
Messages of Love
There are many homeless men and women who would want a Bible if you had one to give. Dynamic Crossroads began purchasing NIV Bibles to give away. If time permits we give away cards that have motivational messages on them as well as the organization providing the services.
The youth give away cards that say:
HUGS AROUND THE VILLAGE
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the
world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
– John 14:27
We are the children of Dynamic Crossroads and
we want to love you the best way we know how.
We believe in you!
Please take what we have as a gift of love
Instead of charity.
We are the future and we seek to
Learn how to care for others.
Thank you for letting us be obedient
To our parents!
We Love You to the Bone!
The youth take save a part of their allowance to purchase socks (of course their parents help). The youth also make the sandwiches and bag up the supplies for distribution. The leader talks about the importance of giving to those in need using a Bible story and asking the children questions. After the event the children are asked what did they learn from the experience.
“One in eight Americans is struggling with hunger.” What we do may not seem like a lot but the sandwiches and socks are very much appreciated by those we have seen over the past seven years. Often we have heard the homeless say, “You guys are right on time!” This ministry is more than socks and sandwiches but the dispensing of love and hope to those who receive none.
If you need assistance starting or have any questions contact the Dynamic Crossroads Director at (202) 489-3752. We wish you much success in your endeavors.