by SC Reporter Teresa Vazquez
photo by SC Associate Publisher Chuck Larsen
Veteran, and Songs and Stories for Soldiers founder, Dan Perkins asked a simple question a few years ago: what else do our veterans need? The answer resulted in the creation of the Socks and Shoes for Homeless Veterans Drive.
Perkins sat at a table with the chief of voluntary service for the Bay Pines Medical Center and his counterpart at the Tampa Bay Veterans Hospital when the question popped into his head. He never thought the answer would be shoes and socks.
The gentlemen explained that the need for these items stems from the inability for shelters to help homeless veterans for longer than the allotted time. In efforts to keep them off the streets once their time at the shelter is over, they help them get interview ready but realized they didn’t have shoes and socks to help them look sharp.
“I [thought], ‘what am I going to do here?’ And I said the only thing I can do is see if we can collect some shoes and socks,” Perkins said.
Having settled on the collection Perkins said he shared the idea with the members of his church’s men’s group. When the group heard about the hundreds of homeless veterans that need shoes and socks, they dived headfirst into the first year of collection.
Seventy-five shoes were collected on the first year, now three years later the drive has collected a total of 1,500 pairs of shoes and 3,000 pairs of socks.
Perkins worried that this year’s drive may not be possible given the pandemic, but knew the veterans need the help now more than ever due to a spike in the veteran unemployment rate.
A few conversations later he realized his supporters were ready and happy to help keep the drive going. Bailey’s owner Richard Johnson told Perkins he was in and would “always be grateful to the veterans who protected me.”
The fourth annual drive will begin the weekend after Thanksgiving on Nov. 28 and will end the weekend before Christmas on Dec. 20. Donations can be dropped off at: Bailey’s General Store, 2477 Periwinkle Way; the Chase Bank, 2441 Palm Ridge Rd.; St. Isabel Catholic Church, 3559 Sanibel Captiva Rd.; and St. Columbkille Church, 12171 Iona Rd., Fort Myers.
Those who do not feel comfortable visiting these locations given the pandemic can donate by making a purchase through their preferred online store and ship them directly to Songs and Soldiers at 1224 Kittiwake Circle, Sanibel, FL 33957.
As a veteran himself Perkins is determined to help his fellow brothers and sisters and is thankful to those who contribute to the collection.
“The Lord gave me this mission to deal with the veterans,” Perkins said. “And there are 21 million veterans in this country.”
Along with the drive Perkins runs a foundation called Songs and Stories for Soldiers that he started with his wife. To learn more about the foundation’s goals check out their website songsandstoriesforsoldiers.us