Moving Forward Limb Loss Support Group is today’s Daily Point of Light Award honoree, and one of the winners of the 2016 Make A Difference Day Awards. Each year, TEGNA recognizes 14 outstanding leaders of Make A Difference Day projects, awarding $140,000 in grants that are donated to the charities related to the winning projects. Learn more about Make A Difference Day and register a 2017 project at www.makeadifferenceday.com.
To most of us, socks are a basic item we don’t give much thought to. But to a homeless person, a good pair of socks is a luxury item. On Make A Difference Day, the members of the Moving Forward Limb Loss Support Group organized a sock drive to benefit the homeless population in their community, counted at more than 6,000 people, including 1,200 children. At the end of the day, the group had collected 864 pairs of socks to be donated to the local Salvation Army – doubling their collection from the previous year!
As part of its mission, the Moving Forward group, based at Southern Indiana Rehabilitation Hospital, works to help prevent amputations. In homeless populations, frostbite is a major concern and is the leading cause of amputation. With winter coming, the sock drive seemed like a perfect way for the group’s members to offer their support
Moving Forward was awarded a $10,000 grant in recognition of its Make A Difference Day project – a little extra money to do a lot more good, both for its members and the larger community. We asked project organizer Belindi Jacobi to tell us more about their efforts, and what’s in store for this year.
What was the inspiration behind your Make A Difference Day 2016 project?
I was sitting in my prosthetist’s office one day waiting for my appointment, and I was looking out the window people watching. A homeless man appeared and started shuffling through a garbage can. His clothes were torn, dirty, and much too big for his small frame. It was then that I noticed his feet. He had on no shoes, just dirty socks that were full of holes. I knew at that moment that I had found our project for Make A Difference Day. We are an amputee support group, and part of our mission is to prevent amputations. If we could help to keep the feet of the homeless in our community warm and dry during the cold winter months, we could possibly save some of them from losing toes and feet to frostbite.
Tell us a little more about what your volunteers did that day.
We collected socks throughout the day at various locations, and spoke about our project at an Amputee Walking School that was held that day.
What was the most rewarding part of the experience? A favorite memory?
To most of us, a pair of socks doesn’t mean that much. We have a drawer full of them. For homeless men, women and children, that same pair of socks is a luxury item. One of my favorite memories is when my 5-year-old grandson Deklan spied a package of Spider-Man socks in our collection. He asked, “Nana can I have these?” I told him that he couldn’t, because those socks were going to go to some little boy who didn’t have any nice clean socks to wear. “Nana, that’s the saddest thing that I have ever heard,” he answered, handing them back to me before he ran off to play. So not only was I able to help with the sock collection, but I was also able to teach my grandson a valuable lesson. That lesson is that it is important to help those in need and even a small thing such as a pair of socks can make a difference.
Why do you think it’s important for others to get involved and make a difference in their community?
First, I think it’s important for everyone to know that they can make a difference. No matter what your circumstance in life, you can still make a difference. That is one of the most beautiful things about our amputee support group. Here we are, a group of individuals who have lost a limb or limbs and are doing our best to get by in life, but we still have that desire and determination to make a difference in the lives of others. We need to realize that even if we can’t do something big alone, that if we work together we can accomplish a lot of small things that add up to big things. We need to set an example for our children and grandchildren that it is important to think of others, and that at the end of the day what matters is if we have made a difference in someone’s life.
As a 2016 Make a Difference Day Award Winner, you were awarded a $10,000 grant for this effort. What will that money go toward?
A portion of the money was used to give scholarships to amputees with financial need to attend the 2017 Amputee Coalition National Conference. While there, they attended gait and mobility training classes, informative sessions on topics to assist them in their daily lives. They also met amputees from all over the world, allowing them to make new friends and gain knowledge. The award money has also been used to help us continue with existing projects such as providing care packages for children with limb loss, new amputees, and veterans at our local VA Hospital. We were also able to begin a new project because of the award money. Our support group has begun providing boxes of food to amputees when they return home from extended hospital or rehabilitation stays. It gives them one less thing to worry about upon returning home. And, plans have been made to use a portion of the money to purchase socks and gloves to help get this year’s Make A Difference Day project off to a good start.
What do you want people to learn from your story?
No matter what your circumstance in life is, you can still make a difference in the life of someone.
What are your plans for Make A Difference Day 2017?
Our group is planning another sock drive, but this year we will also be collecting gloves. and accepting new or gently used coats and winter hats. There is such a need for all of these items by needy men, women and children in our community. We have a monthly meeting scheduled on Make A Difference Day, and the director of the Louisville-area Salvation Army will be there to accept our donations. We are also going to have a “silly sock” competition among our members, with the one wearing the silliest socks winning a prize. It should be a fun way to end the day and make for a great group photo!
Volunteers across the nation will come together again on Saturday, Oct. 28, to improve their communities for Make A Difference Day. Project organizers are encouraged to register at www.makeadifferenceday.com to be eligible to win a $10,000 grant to donate to a charity related to their Make A Difference Day project.