On a mission: Teen starts ministry to give socks to homeless

Published 9:00 am Sunday, August 19, 2018


GREENWOOD, Miss. (AP) — Socks are the No. 1 most requested clothing item at homeless shelters. This is a fact Carver O’Neal read last year, and it resonated with him.

“It’s one of the things they just don’t really receive a lot of,” said the 16-year-old. “Scripture says, ‘Pray without ceasing. Pray continuously,’ so I really try to put that into practice in my life. When this started, I felt the Lord leading me there, and I kept praying.”

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O’Neal, a student at Pillow Academy, said he was in class one day and an idea for a sock drive hit him.

“After I saw that fact, and for me there’s certain times you keep praying about something and God is just going to let you know, and I think that’s kind of how it was. He just let me know that was the thing,” said O’Neal. “It did involve a lot of prayer.”

So around November last year O’Neal held a sock drive.

“We collected through my school and a couple of churches pitched in and helped collect, and we ended up raising 665 pairs of socks,” he said.

The socks were donated to Atlanta Mission, a nonprofit with five facilities, each serving the needs of different segments of the homeless population, including men, women and children who have lost jobs, faced eviction, been abused, battled addictions, fought mental illness and more.

“I kind of felt the Lord leading me to serve Atlanta, because I go to Atlanta a lot and I see homelessness there,” said O’Neal.

Before the event, O’Neal said he had heard of different types of drives. However, “I had never really heard of a sock drive, but we’re going to do one.”

The successful event sparked O’Neal to continue the work he felt led to do. This year, the 10th-grader formed Mission: Socks, a ministry dedicated to providing the homeless with socks.

“The thing this year was about growth, and one of my goals was to get different churches involved,” said O’Neal.

This year, the donations will be sent to Stewpot Community Services, a homeless ministry in Jackson.

“It’s where the Lord leads me to go, and this year He led me to stay local,” said O’Neal.

During a recent mission trip to New York, O’Neal was asked what his goal was this year.

“I had never really thought of a goal. I had always just thought, ‘Hey, let’s go out there and see how many we can get,’” he said.

But now that he has considered a goal, O’Neal is hoping for 1,000 pairs of socks — or more.

Last year, the sock drive promoted donating crazy socks with different colors and fun designs. O’Neal said any types and colors of socks for all ages can be donated.

“We are asking for specifically new and appropriate socks for all different sizes,” he said.

Last year, O’Neal said he remembers seeing baby socks that were donated.

“They actually had for Atlanta Mission a women and children’s shelter, and they would post pictures of the lives being changed and the families there, and that just came to my mind when I saw the infant donations,” he said.

O’Neal decided to move the sock drive to September, rather being held in November, so those receiving the donations will get them before the wintertime.

“We want to get these donations to them before it gets really cold out,” he said.

Mission: Socks is also selling T-shirts, available in three colors, for the next two weeks, and all proceeds go toward purchasing socks and shipping equipment.

“Everything is going to go right back to the sock drive,” said O’Neal.

Mission: Socks has already received some donations and has sponsors from as far away as Redemption Church in Red Hook, New York, and Wigtownshire, Scotland, from a company called Holy Socks, which puts Biblical references on their products. Holy Socks has already sent a donation of 104 socks — 15 percent of what was raised last year.

O’Neal is member of North Greenwood Baptist Church, where he is active in the church’s youth group and plays drums for the youth praise band and Sunday praise band.

“Carver has a real sense of God prompting his heart for service,” said the Rev. Dr. Jim Phillips, pastor of North Greenwood Baptist Church. “I’m excited for his heart for ministry.”

O’Neal is also involved at his school with the cross country track team and band.

He said his school, church and family have all been very supportive of Mission: Socks. His parents, Chris and Kristy O’Neal, help out, and he runs ideas by them.

“My parents have been very supportive, and I’m very thankful for them,” said O’Neal. “I just really want to give thanks to everybody who has been in prayer for us and the churches and the people who have supported us since last year.”

O’Neal said his future plans for Mission: Socks are “wherever God wants me to go with it, that’s where I’m going to go.”

“If He wants me to keep it like this, I plan to keep it like this,” said O’Neal. “If He wants me to take it to a different level, then I’ll take it there.”

For more information about Mission: Socks or purchasing a T-shirt, visit Facebook.com/missionsocks.