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Churchill woman leads sock drive for needy children

| Thursday, June 12, 2008

Patti Amato is hoping people sock it to her -- 1,000 times.

The Churchill woman hopes to collect 1,000 pairs of new white athletic socks for needy children here and abroad. That is 167 six-pack bags' worth.

Her inspiration is bare feet.

Amato saw a television news story about Ron Hunter, who coached his Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis basketball team in his bare feet during a January game to raise awareness and footwear for Samaritan's Feet, a humanitarian nonprofit organization.

The Charlotte, N.C.-based charity is the pay-it-forward initiative of Manny Ohonme, a Nigerian native who at age 9 was given his first pair of shoes by an American missionary.

Shoes enabled him to play basketball, which earned him a scholarship to the University of North Dakota, said Sarah McCune, development coordinator.

Now a successful businessman, Ohonme founded Samaritan's Feet in 2003 with the goal of equipping 10 million impoverished children with athletic shoes in 10 years, McCune says.

The story touched Amato. But it left her wondering.

"You can't have shoes without socks," she says.

Amato contacted Samaritan's Feet and offered to spread the word about donating shoes while conducting her own sock drive to collect 1,000 pairs to fit toddler through adult sizes.

She hopes to reach her goal by the end of June.

So far, her largest single donation is 90 pairs. Donations have come steadily from as far away as Massachusetts and Iraq, thanks to an e-mail plea to relatives and friends.

Although Samaritan's Feet is a Christian ministry, Amato, who is Jewish, says the cause goes beyond religious differences for the greater good. She's appealing to churches, synagogues or community groups for help.

"Every six-pack brings me six pairs closer," Amato says.

For those who don't want to buy the socks themselves, she will accept monetary donations and do the shopping, or use it toward shipping sock-filled boxes to Samaritan's Feet in North Carolina.

McCune said about 300 million children worldwide lack shoes and socks.

Even though there are times Amato has struggled financially as a single mother, her daughter Alex, 15, has always known the comfort of footwear and socks.

"I can't imagine what it would be like not to have socks and shoes," Amato says. "It's incomprehensible."

Additional Information:

How to help

For information about donating socks or money for shipping costs, call Patti Amato at 412-829-1009 and leave a message.

A collection bin will be in the lobby of Gateway Newspapers, 610 Beatty Road, Monroeville, for drop-off between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. through the end of June. The socks will be delivered to Samaritan's Feet, a nonprofit humanitarian organization collecting footwear for children throughout the world.

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