Louisville Group Helps Army Keep City’s Homeless People Warm
By: David Ibata
Belinda Jacobi anticipates the question before it’s asked: Why would an organization dedicated to serving amputees hold a sock drive?
“We’re part of the Amputee Coalition,” said Jacobi, president of the Louisville, Kentucky-based Moving Forward Limb Loss Support Group. “Part of our mission, and theirs is to prevent amputations.”
Every winter, homeless people and others lose toes, feet and fingers to frostbite, she said, “and those with diabetes are especially susceptible. I thought a sock drive would be a perfect project. If we can prevent even one person from losing a limb, that’s wonderful.”
This is the third year Moving Forward has gathered socks for The Salvation Army’s Louisville Metropolitan Area Command. Active in northern Kentucky and southern Indiana, the group collected 1,001 pairs this fall, breaking its prior record of 854 pairs set in 2016.
Employees of the Southern Indiana Rehab Hospital in New Albany donated 188 pairs, while those of the Harrison County, Indiana, Hospital gave 136 pairs. Conway Community Church in South Boston, Indiana, contributed 125 pairs. Orthopedic and prosthetic care centers, a medical clinic, a local barber and the Okolona, Kentucky, Fire Protection District served as collection locations.
“We also decided to broaden it,” Jacobi said. “We knew The Salvation Army was stretched because of all the natural disasters we’ve had the last few months, so we also collected coats, gloves and caps” – 34 coats, 59 pairs of gloves, and 32 winter hats, to be exact.
Jacobi lost her right leg below the knee to cancer in 2009. She and other amputees founded Moving Forward in 2012 after they realized the area had no one to contact for support and to serve as an information clearinghouse. The group offers peer support and holds monthly meetings and social activities so amputees in the community can connect with each other.
She said the inspiration for the sock drive came to her while she sat in a doctor’s waiting room. She looked out a window and saw a homeless man rummaging through a trash can. He wore ragged clothes, with one foot in a non-slip stocking, and the other, bare – “no sock, no shoe, nothing.
“I remember sitting there thinking, if my Mom – who had just passed away – was here, she would have told me to go outside and give him my shoes and socks. That’s kind of how her generation is. So this really touched me. I got to thinking, ‘I’ve found our group project.’”
Moving Forward’s current projects include starting Facebook groups for young adults, caregivers and parents and children of amputees, and holding a Christmas party for its more than 100 members – those who have lost limbs and their families and caregivers.
Its youngest member is 8 years old, and its oldest, in their 90s. People are referred to the group by relatives, doctors, prosthetists and physical and occupational therapists and the Amputee Coalition.
“Amputees can talk to someone who’s been there and done that, who can share their experiences and connect them to resources,” Jacobi said. “We try to encourage amputees to get out, have fun and continuing enjoying their lives. We try to teach the community that the loss of a limb changes your life, but you can still make a difference.”