by Marc and Julie Anderson
TOPEKA — Baloo the bear of “Jungle Book” fame might have made “Bare Necessities” popular, but it’s seven Catholic parishes in Topeka and one in Rossville that are making them possible for those in need.
Now in its seventh year, Bare Essentials is an annual drive sponsored by the Topeka Catholic Community Services advisory council to help the disadvantaged by providing them with new socks and underwear. According to one of this year’s committee members, Carolyn Clement, the drive is simple in design, yet fills an urgent and often overlooked need.
Agencies and churches in the community often collect clothes, she explained, and make them available to those in need.
“So those who are less fortunate in our community [already] wear a lot of hand-me-downs,” Clement said. “We believe that, at the least, those in need deserve new socks and underwear, not hand-me-downs.”
By providing new socks and underwear, said Clement, Bare Essentials helps restore some of the dignity that those in need have lost by not being able to provide for themselves.
Clement, who is spearheading this year’s effort along with advisory council member Mary Lou Weidenbach, said it only to takes a few minutes of an individual’s time and effort to make a significant contribution to the annual drive.
During the months of October and November, each parish representative on the advisory council is provided with shopping bags stamped with the Bare Essentials
logo. Each representative is then responsible for distributing the bags to fellow parishioners after Mass on a designated weekend.
Through pulpit announcements and bulletin inserts, parishioners are encouraged to return the bags the following weekend after filling them with new socks and underwear in any size or color.
After the bags are collected, they are distributed to service agencies like Let’s Help Inc., the Topeka Rescue Mission and Doorstep. Last year the drive netted some 25,700 pairs of new socks and underwear for the needy of the Topeka area.
In addition, $2,000 more in cash donations was used to purchase socks and underwear beyond what had been collected previously. Clement said she is continually thrilled, amazed and inspired by the generosity of the Topeka Catholic community.
“Our Catholic parishes are very generous in providing new socks and underwear to those who are less fortunate. The quality of the merchandise provided is amazing, especially for the children served by this drive,” Clement said.
Clement believes that donors feel especially sympathetic to parents who are unable to give their children such staples, and it’s reflected in their buying patterns.
“People go out of their way to find some cute, frilly and colorful items for the girls,” she noted, “and items with all the superheroes and sports figures for the boys. The children appreciate so much the beautiful socks and underwear.”