Gurnee mom, son collect socks for charity

Yearly effort to help Open Arms Mission in Antioch has grown into multistate endeavor

Kendra Kett and Keaton Nonnemacher of Gurnee and Judy Close of Open Arms Mission in Antioch.

GURNEE – Kendra Kett and her son Keaton Nonnemacher have been organizing an annual sock drive around the holidays for the past 10 years.

This year is no different.

What started as a charitable endeavor for family to participate in over the holidays, as well as a project at one of the early care and learning centers Kett supervised, has grown into an annual event spanning several months and dozens of participants from across the country.

During her career in education management, Kett got the chance to meet the staff at the Open Arms Mission in Antioch and was surprised to learn about the number of financially challenged residents in Lake County.

Not only were food and housing a significant need, but Kett discovered that socks were the No. 1 item requested from those who were struggling financially.

Open Arms serves families in need with weekly food and groceries. It also provides support with school supplies, weekend backpacks filled with food for food-insecure children, assistance with housing, utilities and rent, holiday meals, meal deliveries for homebound seniors, and holiday gifts for more than 300 children.

Many financially challenged families cannot purchase new socks for their children or elderly parents for the winter. Men served by the mission who are able to get seasonal outdoor employment (plowing, shoveling snow, etc.) also need help getting warm socks to wear.

Judy Close, an 11-year Mission volunteer, launched the Socks for the Soul Project in 2009 to meet the need.

“When financially challenged people have warm feet because they have good warm socks to get them through the freezing Chicago winter, they function better and can focus on problem-solving,” Close said.

When Kett and Close met, it was a no-brainer that Kett would start collecting socks, first organizing with the local child care centers she supervised, and then later after retirement, morphing the sock drive into a nationwide friends and family effort through social media and email.

To date, Close’s project has collected a whopping 90,000 pairs of socks from sock drives to support Lake County families in need.

“Every pair of socks matters and every pair counts toward helping a family,” said Marytherese Ambacher, director at the Open Arms Mission. “Our clients at the mission are truly grateful. There is a sense of relief when we start distributing socks. Our motto is Neighbors Helping Neighbors. We so appreciate everyone’s donations.”

Thanks to the generosity of friends and family, Kett and her son have collected more than 9,500 pairs of socks since 2016. Typically, each year, donations come from 20 to 25 states. This year the duo hopes to collect 3,000 pairs.

“It’s so easy to donate a package of socks, yet the gesture is highly significant and helpful to so many,” Nonnemacher said. “To donate, send or deliver new, warm socks to Judy Close at the Open Arms Mission in Antioch. Socks are needed for all ages, infants through seniors, boys and girls, teens and men and women.”

The address for Open Arms Mission is 1548 Main St., Antioch, IL 60002. The collection ends Dec. 31.

To learn about the work being done through the Open Arms Mission and to make a donation, visit

Shaw Local News Network

Shaw Local News Network

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