The star on St. Matthew Episcopal Church’s Christmas tree is made out of socks – cute socks a grade school girl might want. Thanks to the Northeast Tacoma congregation, children whose families are going through tough times will be wearing them. Come January, the people of St. Matthew will deliver dozens, maybe hundreds, of socks to Browns Point and Northeast Tacoma elementary schools. St. Matthew, as its readerboard declares, is Northeast Tacoma’s drop site for Tacoma Weekly’s Put A Sock In It drive. So far, the congregation has bought 250 pairs to hang on the tree, arrange under the tree and stash in a shopping cart near the tree. And it’s not yet Christmas Eve, a prime time to honor the baby Jesus by warming the feet of His children. That style of service is part of the culture at St. Matthew, said member Jim Oberg. “We’re an outreach congregation.” “It’s part of our mission to show Christ’s love in the community,”” Leanne Kennedy added. They demonstrated that love on past Christmas trees decked with baby gifts for young mothers and newborns at the former Faith Homes. They demonstrate it by cooking soup for the guests at Nativity House. They demonstrated it last fall with $600 donated to Emergency Food Network, and $300 worth of food delivered to the FISH Mobile Food Bank at Northeast Tacoma Elementary School.
“I was struck by the women who were there with their kids,” Kennedy said. “Kids that went to that school needed the food bank. There are a lot more people out there in need than there were four years ago. It’s an invisible need.” These people, these neighbors, have been on her mind, she said. Just before Advent, they moved to the forefront. “We were looking for something to do with our Christmas tree, and I had a vision of a tree full of socks,” Kennedy said. “It’s a simple thing, but I know that wet feet and winter don’t go together.” Pam Ladley loved the mission and the visual. “Socks are so colorful,” she said. And they are. The tree is bright with pinks and reds, blues, yellows and purples. The floor under it is soft with the mossy browns and greens of thick wool and acrylic-mix socks. The practical Episcopalians offered their friends the option of giving money, and letting the outreach team multiply it. They raised $250. “We went to Fred Meyer in Federal Way and asked if we could have the Black Friday prices,” said John Kennedy, Leanne’s husband. To his delight, the manager agreed, doubling the good the congregation could do. “John has a smooth tongue,” his wife, Leanne, said. Nah, he said. Fred Meyer has a good manager. Together, they shopped for an assortment of socks to suit men, women, kids and people who live on the streets and in shelters. Pam Ladley spotted her investment in community at Costco. “We were thinking homeless,” she said of the four-pack of wool socks at a little over $2 a pair. “It was such a good deal.” They look good under the tree, too. They, and the rest of the socks, will look even better on the feet the people of St. Matthew bless with their outreach.