Key Clubbers brave the cold to bring warmth to the homeless.
Story by Julie Saetre Photos by Daegia Vang
On a cold Minnesota night in October, Emily Rice huddled inside a cardboard box, pulling her single blanket closely around her. She tried to sleep, but temperatures continued to drop, and even tucked under the blanket, her bare feet were numb and uncomfortable.
For Rice, a member of the Key Club at Fridley High School, this frigid night is not the norm. But she and her fellow club members know that others are not so fortunate. For more than 15 years, the Fridley High School Key Club has done a “sleep-out” to raise awareness of and funds for the homeless population. But last year, students learned about the Socktober campaign created by the team behind popular YouTube channel SoulPancake.
“Socktober uses the month of October to collect socks for those in need,” explains Rice. “Socks are the least donated and most requested item by homeless shelters.”
So socks became the focus of the club’s 2017 awareness campaign, which kicked off with the sleep-out. On a cold October night, a group of 52 Key Clubbers from Fridley and Columbia Heights high schools joined two Circle K members, four Columbia Heights-Fridley Kiwanians and a Key Club parent to camp out in cardboard boxes on Fridley’s football field.
“It was a lot easier to intrigue people and spark conversation with something like this,” Rice says. “It’s not everyday your grandchild/child/student/neighbor asks you for sock donations so they can sleep in a cardboard box on a Friday night in October.”
Although she had participated in past sleep-outs, the impact didn’t lessen.
“I am still moved … The experience really opened my eyes to what many people without a home experience every night.”
Their efforts were well rewarded: By the end of October, club members had collected 815 pairs of socks. Rice and her best friend delivered the donations to a local shelter.
“The shelter acted pretty normal when they saw a large box, but when they realized it was filled with socks and not food, they lit up,” Rice says. “They were ecstatic to see that they finally had socks to give. They thanked us about five separate times within the three-minute encounter.”