By Robin BrownDecember 11, 2008
FORT MCPHERSON, Ga. -- While the world is in a recession and big-name companies are trying to fill their stockings with billions of bailout dollars, one young lady is caring about someone besides herself this holiday season.
While her bank vault doesn't hold enough to fill the world's Christmas stockings, she's found a way to fill other stockings and brighten children's holidays.
LaVencia V. Gaines, 10, is providing socks for children who are spending their holiday in three of Atlanta's local hospitals.
"My mom is always giving so much of herself to others, and I've learned from her," said Gaines, who likes to be called Venci. "This time it's my turn."
In November 2008, Venci's mother, Yolanda J. Edwards, a receptionist with the garrison Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, Fort McPherson, Ga., and her neighbor, Janna Anderson, discussed ways to teach their children the real reason for the season.
"It is about Christ and giving of themselves to others, not Santa Claus or the Christmas gifts," Edwards explained. "I am encouraging my daughter to give to others during this time, when things are difficult for many."
That conversation between friends has knitted a community together.
"We thought of all sorts of things for [the children] to do to make this event different and special," Edwards explained. "I'm always on Venci about putting socks on her feet before walking around in the house. I prayed and asked God to help me teach my daughter and the boys next door a loving lesson that would have a lifetime impact on them. When we told the children about the idea, they absolutely loved the name and the concept of collecting socks. The theme: 'Sock It To Me.'"
Initially, the moms were going to give donated socks to Henry Medical Center, since they live in Henry County, but the hospital doesn't have a children's ward of patients who needed socks. Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Hospital became the target.
The goal, Edwards said, is to see how many pair of socks can be collected for the children's hospitals: Scottish Rite at 1001 Johnson Ferry Road NE; Hughes Spalding at 35 Jesse Hill Jr. Drive SE and Egleston at 1405 Clifton Road NE.
"So many children go through the hospitals, but the hospital socks really don't fit the children," Edwards, a retired Army veteran, said. Laying out the many pairs already donated - footie, ankle, crew, slouch, calf, knee-high, toe and non-slip - Edwards continued, "There is a great need for baby socks."
It will take a lot of socks to fill the extra large stocking Venci uses for collections, and individuals throughout Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem are invited to join the cause.
Marvin A. Ford, a training specialist and tasking officer for the garrison Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security, is helping Vendi meet her goal. He's challenged M. Rock Mitchell, chief of the In- and Out-Processing Center, Directorate of Human Resources, to fill the biggest stocking with socks.
"Any time we see children trying to make a difference in a positive way, we all should go out of our way to support them," Ford said, "especially when it's for such a worthy cause."
All sizes are needed for boys and girls, and many people and organizations are making the pledge to give. Each year other items are collected, but implementing "Sock It To Me" is "to be different, yet make a difference," Edwards said. Thus far, the team has collected about 100 pair.
"When we were kids, we hated for our parents or grandparents to give us socks for Christmas. It was the most awful present, it seemed," remarked Reginald Brown. "This year, giving socks means so much more than a gift-giving no-no, unless they are tube socks," the security officer with U.S. Army Forces command grimaced. "This time, it shows a level of caring for children who may be hurting."
Venci and her neighbors, Javaun L., 10, and Jayden L. Anderson, 8, sons of Lorenville and Janna Anderson of McDonough, get out three times a week - after homework is done - to collect their donations.
"I know we only have a couple of weeks left before our deadline," Edwards said. "I'm just encouraged in knowing that with God's help, we can do this."
The last day to donate is Dec. 20, 2008.
"We will still accept donations for as long as people want to give," Edwards explained, "but we want to deliver the majority of gifts Dec. 22 and 23."
Sock drop locations are at: Edwards and Anderson's residences at 209 and 215 Bo Simpson Parkway, in McDonough; Publix at 2158 Highway 20 West; Starbucks at 1479 Highway 20 West and the AT&T store at Eagle's Landing off I-75, exit 224 in Stockbridge.
What is in it for the kids, besides a lesson'
With a resounding, "Nothing," Venci, Javaun and Jayden reply. "We just wanted to make kids happy to have a nice pair of socks on their feet," Venci said.
"I like helping people," Venci continued. "My mom always uses her foundation, Adult Wishes Foundation, to help people who are sick. She helps them to get a wish before they die. I want to be like her."
Javaun chimed in, "I feel special because I'm doing something different. Most kids are probably thinking about themselves. We give to the Goodwill every year."
Echoing his brother, Jayden added, "It feels good to give to someone else."
"This will be valuable lesson for them this year to give back," said Edwards. "We must encourage our children to do positive things. Help me help them to help others."
For more information, call Edwards at 404-718-9155.