Keith C. Roller wanted to give back to the community, but he didn’t know exactly what to do.
Then Roller learned something he didn’t know: New socks are among the most-needed, but least-donated article of clothing to homeless shelters.
So last year, Roller started the Sock Rock initiative, and he has expanded the effort this holiday season.
“When Christ lived with us here on Earth, he said, ‘If you do onto the least of these, you do onto me,” said Roller, 53.
Roller, a lawyer with an office in Pleasantville, has been helped with his Sock Rock effort by his wife of 30 years, Bonnie Roller. She helped design the flyers and does any computer work related to the effort.
“Last year, we just did it on our own, and then this year, I had bigger ideas,” Roller said. “Every Saturday, there is a luncheon for people experiencing homelessness, people who are marginalized, at the Asbury United Methodist Church in Atlantic City. We called it God’s kitchen, but it’s through the Atlantic City Urban Partnership, known as ACUP,” Roller said.
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Roller’s entire family handed the socks out to homeless people last year. They collected about 700 pairs of socks.
“It’s amazing how something as simple as that can really light up somebody’s face. It’s probably the most-needed thing, but the least-donated thing,” Roller said. “We do a clothes bin there too. We bring in gently used clothing there, but socks really have to be new.”
If you are a homeless person who is wearing socks 24 hours a day, seven days a week, they can wear out pretty quickly, Roller said.
“It’s a greater need during the cold months of the winter, so we thought it was a great time to be able to do it” Roller said. “Their reaction is they are so appreciative of it. When we came out of that experience, we gained 10 times more than we gave.”
The sock drive requires a little more effort on peoples’ part than donating clothing does, Roller said.
“People have to take the initiative to go out and purchase socks and give them. With the rest of the items of clothing, a lot of people just go through their closets,” said Roller, a Beesleys Point resident.
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Last year, Roller came up with the Sock Rock idea around Thanksgiving, so it was basically just run through his law office. He contacted people that he did business with and asked them if they would like to make a contribution.
“This year, I started envisioning this larger process over the summertime, and I started talking to business owners about it, and the response was good,” said Roller. Eight businesses are involved this time around.
Roller believes he is more than halfway to his goal of collecting 1,500 pairs of socks.
“Things are going rather nicely. We are going to have to find more places to spread them around,” he said. About 600 to 700 pairs will be set aside for ACUP.
Roller plans to collect as many socks as he can by Wednesday and distribute many of them on Dec. 26 at Asbury United Methodist Church.
Between 300 and 350 people are expected to show up at the luncheon that day. Each person will be able to select a couple of pair of new socks.
Christi Murphy, the Northfield Chiropractic Center office manager, said Roller asked her if her company would get involved last year. The center donated socks last year and has a bin in the office for sock collection this year.
“We loved the idea,” she said. “We donated quite a few pair last year, and then, this year, he came to us because he had this way bigger, better idea. And I said, ‘Sure, we are onboard absolutely. Let’s collect from the patients, and we will also donate a bunch of socks from the office again.’”
Murphy had high praise for what Roller is doing.
“I think he’s such a unique person, and it’s an honor to help him. I think it’s a great thing he does. It’s such a selfless thing he does,” Murphy said.
Even after the Dec. 26 distribution, the process is expected to continue.
“The problems will certainly not go away after Christmas, so we will take any donations and pass them right onto him,” Murphy said.