Elizabeth VanSickle founded Sock Monkey Ministries, Inc. This unique and unduplicated program through a community of volunteers, share a passion through a simple act of kindness, inspiring hope in the lives of orphaned children, cancer patients, AIDS patients, military personnel (Soldiers), homeless families and those in need of encouragement through a handmade gift of a sock monkey. Ms. VanSickle conceptualized and implemented “Operation…Monkey Drop” a community service project involving 450 local school children, administrators, teachers, city council, parents, in hand making 600 sock monkeys that were sent to our military personnel in Iraq. She has established satellite organizations in over 15 states. The organization holds weekly sock monkey making workshops at nursing homes, schools and church facilities.
In 2004, Elizabeth VanSickle was diagnosed with breast cancer. During cancer treatments she witnessed loneliness, fear, and helplessness in the faces of others and wanted to bring encouragement. That act has now evolved into a formalized 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization that has provided well over 6500 sock monkeys to cancer patients, AIDS patients, Troops in Iraq, Orphanages, Group Homes, and many others in over a three year time period.
The internal drive to reach those suffering through a labor of love encouraged her to continue and expand the program in which some of the recipients have also become volunteers assembling gifts. Our volunteers range from the age of 2 to 96! Our volunteers are living in nursing homes; we utilize Alzheimer patients, schools, community centers, and shelters, as an outreach by inspiring service in others and bringing the sense of usefulness to many. It is clear her life goal is to provide the opportunity for all people to be involved in service and to promote volunteerism. The average sock monkey takes 4 hours for completion. The motivation comes from witnessing the act of service from the mentally challenged volunteer, at risk youth feeling the acceptance of others, the elderly who find a sense of renewed purpose, and the children who learn that serving others is a virtue.
Not only does the reward come from the volunteer aspect but equally important is the benefits to the recipient–the cancer patient that experiences the encouragement of a simple gift, the soldier’s heart when they receive a care package with a sock monkey and a personalized card to let them know their service is remembered, the AIDS patient who receives an empowering gift of love, and to the families that receive a fallen hero monkey honoring their solder’s act of bravery and encouragement.
Elizabeth VanSickle feels her calling is a direct “hands-on” program where the volunteers and the recipients experience the direct benefits of service. The impact thus far is over 9,500 number of people served and over 10,500 number of volunteers engaged as a result of her volunteer service. She credits the success of the organization with the tireless efforts of her many volunteers that share in her vision to touch lives one monkey at a time.