Even with the regular season underway, the Washington University
in St. Louis men’s and women’s tennis teams are finding
time to give back to the community.
Numerous weekends spent volunteering at St. Patrick Center have led to a new initiative to benefit the homeless called “Socks for the Sole.” The tennis teams are collecting socks and raising money to purchase new socks for donation to the needy.
Women’s head coach Kelly Stahlhuth had previously worked with St. Patrick and thought the experience would be positive for team-building on top of the benefits the volunteer work could provide for the homeless community.
St. Patrick helps over 8,000 individuals each year find employment, food and shelter and is one of the largest centers of its type in Missouri. As a result, the organization never hungers for volunteers and welcomed the Bears with open arms.
“They were wide open. They wanted the help,” Stahlhuth said. “They were very receptive. When you get down there, you understand that you want to go back and continue to help.”
Most of the men’s and women’s teams were able to travel to St. Patrick to serve lunch at least once during the fall semester, and Stahlhuth said that at least one more visit is planned for the spring. About two players from each team would go for a single visit, and Stahlhuth hoped to have every player on each team attend at least once.
Meals were pre-prepared by the center, and the participating players and coaches served more than 100 people from 12-12:30 p.m. Volunteers provided utensils and napkins to visitors before heading back into the kitchen and serving individual meals until the food ran out.
“I think it’s a really good experience,” senior captain Betsy Edershilesaid. “I feel like I’m making a difference. You start to recognize the people with each visit, and every week feels like a new experience. It gets you to see a different side of things that’s not in the Washington University bubble.”
“All of them had a great reception and really enjoyed the time there,” Stahlhuth added. “I went back myself in January, and we talked about something small we could do. We started talking about how nice it would be to have new socks [to give out] in the coldest part of the winter.”
Senior Evelyn Qin came up with some slogans, and the teams decided on “Socks for the Sole.” The teams tabled for donations in the Danforth University Center for three days in mid-January and will continue to accept donations for at least one more week.
“It’s a nice way in the weeks we don’t go volunteer to keep [the center] in mind and be able to have another goal we are working towards. When we go, it’s nice to give out food, but it feels really good to be doing something active beyond that to show we are helping more,” Edershile said.
So far, the team has collected about 30 pairs of socks and about $100 in donations that will go toward more pairs, and is still looking for more. Stahlhuth plans to surprise the volunteer coordinator at St. Patrick with the socks in the near future. Donations of new socks or cash can be made at the information desk of the Athletic Complex.
For further information about donations, please contact Kelly Stahlhuth at firstname.lastname@example.org.