“Sharing Socks,” New Era, Nov. 1983, 18
Jo Dee Wilkinson laid the paper pattern on the yellow quilted cotton material. She lifted one edge to see if the pattern was straight on the fabric and pinned the edges. Carefully she cut through two thicknesses. She had picked out white lace and brown ribbon to go with the yellow. Now she was ready to sew. She was not completely at home using a sewing machine, but this project was worth the effort.
Jo Dee was making a Sharing Sock, a handcrafted item that would be filled with small gifts and given to another girl about her age in another part of the world. Then she didn’t realize that as a result of her efforts, she would begin writing encouraging letters to a young Vietnamese girl named Tran Hgoc-Chi. The young girl would tell Jo Dee about her difficult life in the refugee camp and beg Jo Dee to write her long letters about life in the United States and in the Church.
Sharing Socks were made of brocade, felt, satin, and gingham. They were trimmed with lace, appliqué, and fancy needlework, but they all had one thing in common. They were made with love by hundreds of young women from all over the world.
The Sharing Socks project was an effort to show people in refugee camps or in orphanages that others were thinking of them and wishing the best for them. To begin the project, packets with pattern pieces and instructions for the eight-inch high socks were assembled by the Young Women General Board and distributed to interested stakes. The girls were asked to sew the socks, lavishing them with care and pride. Each girl was assigned a state of the United States or a country of the world in which the Church is active. They decorated their socks to illustrate that state or country. Also, each girl was asked to include a photograph and either her testimony or a favorite scripture.
At first the socks served double duty. The finished socks were sent to the Young Women headquarters in Salt Lake City. There they were used as decorations for the large Christmas trees in the two visitors’ centers on Temple Square. After the holiday season, the socks were packed carefully in boxes and shipped to the Philippines. There the girls of the Makati Stake helped fill the socks with small toiletry items such as combs, toothbrushes, mirrors, and other useful items such as pads and pencils. From the Philippines, the socks were sent to the island of Palawan, where refugees from Vietnam and Cambodia are awaiting transfer to countries that will become their new homes. These refugees arrive with virtually no possessions, so they appreciated the small gifts and the thoughtfulness that went into the Sharing Socks.
As the Sharing Socks were handed out to the refugees in the Philippines, Sister Margaret Collipriest of the Young Women General Board, seeing the poverty of the people, said to the interpreter, “It is a small gift but sent with love.” The chairman answered, “You say it is a small gift. For them it is a big gift.”
The project continues with 500 Sharing Socks being sent to Austria to be given to children in orphanages. Another 250 socks have been completed and are on their way to Hong Kong, where the young women there will fill the socks before they are sent to refugee camps in that area.
More socks are being made with care and love and continue to be sent throughout the world. And with each one goes a message of hope from a young Latter-day Saint girl.
There have been some nice side effects for the girls involved in making the Sharing Socks. One mother told how her daughter, who had not been very active, began searching for just the right scripture to put with her sock. She became so excited about the scriptures that she has continued her study of them. Now she and her mother are sharing favorite scriptures.
In another family where the mother is active and the father is not, their young daughter decided to make a sock and before sending it in, showed and explained it to her father. Because his daughter’s handiwork would be on display, he told her that this was one year they would be sure to go to the visitors’ centers on Temple Square.
For some girls it was their first experience using a sewing machine, and as a result they developed confidence in a newfound talent. For others, making a sock was a chance to grow closer to their mothers as they worked together on the project. To make a sock and imagine where it finally will go is to help a young woman have a vision, a perspective beyond her own world.
Each Sharing Sock, made with such care, is a message from one young girl to another—a message of hope, of love, and of caring. Sometimes a correspondence is started, sometimes understanding of different ways of life is gained, but always sharing of tenderest feelings takes place.
Sharing Socks are a gift of love.