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10 years ago, Hurricane Katrina nearly destroyed Kim Bergeron's hometown of Slidell, Louisiana.

Slidell, Louisiana, 16 days after Hurricane Katrina. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.


"We took a direct hit," Bergeron, a local relief worker, told Upworthy.

With nearly all of the city's buildings devastated or in disrepair, relief workers clustered into the only municipal building that was still functioning. They slept on cots in hallways, used makeshift showers that were nothing but a curtain and a hose, and ate thrown-together meals served outside in a tent.

"We were there 24/7," Bergeron said. "Many of the employees had lost their homes and couldn't go home."

But the worst wasn't over.

"When we heard [Hurricane] Rita was in the gulf, spirits just plummeted," Bergeron recalled. "To be quite honest, many people just lost it. We didn't know what to do. We didn't know how to act. It was just more than we could handle.

"And that's when we got these cards."

The cards arrived in a box from a group of schoolchildren in Massachusetts.

For the demoralized relief workers of Slidell, they changed everything.

Photo by Kim Bergeron.

"It was just like sunshine in the middle of all this darkness and despair," Bergeron said.

"It was just what we needed."

Though they were only a small gesture, the cards gave Bergeron and her colleagues the strength to go on rebuilding, despite the dark clouds on the horizon.

10 years later, Bergeron decided it was time to write those kids a thank-you note.

She doesn't know who they are or what school they were from, but she wants them to know what an incredible impact their cards had.

Photo by Kim Bergeron.

"I would love nothing more than for those kids, now teenagers I'm sure, to recognize what a difference they made," she told Upworthy.

"For the people who received this, it was much-needed medicine at a time when it was really, really needed."

Photo by Kim Bergeron.

Here's her letter of gratitude:

Dear Schoolchildren of Massachusetts,

It's been nearly ten years since we received the box of cards that you sent us following Hurricane Katrina. I know that you're not quite so little anymore—some of you may be in high school, perhaps some have graduated. But this message is sent with the intent of letting you know what you, as elementary school students, did for our city's first responders when you sent your well wishes.

Photo by Kim Bergeron.

I'm not sure how or why you selected our little city of Slidell instead of one of the larger cities to receive your gift of hope. Perhaps your teacher knew that Slidell was the Louisiana city hardest hit by the storm. Or perhaps she was from a small city herself, and knew that the majority of relief efforts would be channeled through larger, metropolitan areas. Or perhaps we just got lucky.

Photo by Kim Bergeron.

Now, here's what you may not know: on the day your box of cards arrived in the only City of Slidell complex that was not destroyed by Katrina, we had just learned that Hurricane Rita was in the gulf and it, too, was headed our way. We were still pretty much in shock from living in the movie-of-the-week that was the aftermath of Katrina. Panic set in. Spirits plummeted. And we didn't know how or if we could deal with another hurricane.

Then your box arrived. And for the moments we spent perusing your cards, we were enveloped by the love with which they were created. And it helped.

Photo by Kim Bergeron.

We taped your cards on the doors and walls of our office, and they helped ease the stress with which we were dealing, and that which was still to come.


You gave us sunshine in the midst of darkness. And for that we are grateful.


My only regret is that, ten years later, I cannot recall from which school these were sent, so I could send you a personal thank you note, yet again, to let you know how much your cards saved all of us.


It is my hopes that you see this message, and you know that your kindness is still remembered a decade later.


The cards continue to inspire Bergeron and her colleagues to help those in need to this day.

When Hurricane Sandy struck the U.S. East Coast in 2012, Bergeron and a colleague organized a relief effort called The Train of Hope for Sandy Relief, which included a card drive. For the 10th anniversary of Katrina and Rita this year, she's hosting an auction to support local Habitat for Humanity rebuilding efforts in the region.

In the meantime, Bergeron hopes to focus on the positive and remind people that when disaster strikes, even the smallest gesture of kindness can make a difference.

"Even little things become big things," she said.

Photo by Kim Bergeron.

All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

True

We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

via UNSW

This article originally appeared on 07.10.21


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