Kleberg County 4-H’er Gabriela Hare knew she wanted to do something special for her community service project this year. With the help of her family and friends, she collected, decorated and handed out more than 500 non-skid socks to elderly in the county.

“It’s Socktoberfest, and it’s been a lot of fun,” 10-year-old Gabriela said of the project. “A lot of people helped me out, and I want to thank all of them.”

Gabriela joined the Wild Horse Desert 4-H Club about five years ago as a Pre 4-H’er. She said her favorite part of the club is the friends she’s made and how everyone is so willing to help her learn and grow.

“Everything that I do, there’s always someone there who is guiding me and helping me,” Gabriela said.

Gabriela’s mother, Veronica, said her daughter is very active in the Kleberg County 4-H program.

“She raises rabbits and chickens, but this is her first community service project,” she said.

Gabriela said for National 4-H Week, which ran from Oct. 6-12, she wanted to participate in a community service project.

“I don’t usually do community service, and I thought it would be fun,” she said. “You can do so many things (as a service project) and your friends will come and help you.”

For her project, Gabriela said she wanted to do something for the county’s senior citizen population. After doing some research, she came across information on making non-skid socks.

“So that whenever it’s cold, they will have socks to wear,” she said.

To collect the socks, Gabriela said she was granted permission from the Kingsville Wal-Mart to hold a sock drive outside of the store. 

“My best friend Abby (Solomon) helped me with the sock drive,” she said. “We did that in the summer.”

“She stood outside the door and asked people going inside if they would buy a pair of socks,” Veronica said. “She had boxes set up, she showed them what her goal was and what she was going to do.”

Gabriela said the sock drive was her favorite part of the service project. She said by the end of the first day, they had already collected a total of 577 pairs of socks.

“We were supposed to be out there for two days, but we met our goal in one day,” she said. 

“I thought that was going to be the hardest part,” Veronica said.

With the help of her family, friends and fellow 4-H members, Gabriela used non-slip fabric paint to decorate the bottom of each sock.

“So they’re non-skid and colorful,” she said. “With regular socks, people can slip and fall, but these will help keep their feet warm and won’t skid so they won’t fall.”

Even though the owners won’t see the bottoms of the socks when they are wearing them, Gabriela said she still wanted to make the socks “colorful and fun.”

Gabriela estimated that she personally painted more than 50 of the sock pairs, doing them whenever she could: after school, on the weekends and even during her 10th birthday party.

She said her favorite designs to paint were stars, smiley faces and yellow-and-red stripes that she called “mustard and ketchup.”

“I thought that looked really pretty,” she said.

Gabriela said her friends and family also had fun painting the socks, especially her grandfather, Tomas Garza.

“My grandpa, he really likes to paint the socks,” she said. “He did 175 (pairs), and when we had a few more left, he wanted to paint those, too.”

Last Wednesday, Gabriela was joined by her fellow Kleberg County 4-H’ers and their families to finish painting the remaining socks and bundle them to be handed out to the elderly.

Kleberg-Kenedy County extension agent Allyson James said she likes seeing a young 4-H’er like Gabriela working hard on a community service project.

“It’s fantastic,” she said. “Community service is super important for us in 4-H, which in itself is a non-profit. We’re building leaders, and in doing so we are building kids who are going to give back to their communities.”

Senior 4-H member Michaela Ewers, who helped Gabriela package socks last Thursday, said she found the 10-year-old “really inspiring.”

“She’s actually going out and doing something instead of just thinking of an idea and then just letting it pass,” the 17-year-old said. 

“She has such a big heart,” said senior 4-H’er Annie Coufal, who also helped last Thursday.

On Friday afternoon, Gabriela and other 4-H volunteers delivered nearly half of the socks to Casa Ricardo so they could be distributed to homebound seniors through the Kleberg County Health and Human Services Department’s Meals on Wheels program.

The 4-H’ers handed out the remaining sock pairs on Saturday to elderly at Kleberg County Nursing and Rehabilitation Center located at 316 General Cavazos Blvd. and the Kingsville Nursing and Rehabilitation Center at 3130 Brahma Blvd.

Gabriela said she wants to bring Socktoberfest back as a community service project next year, but is still thinking about what she could add to make it even better.

“I’m thinking of maybe going to the (local) hotels and asking for extra toiletries that we can put in the socks,” she said. “So that way, (senior citizens) would have a fun pair of socks and some toiletries in there, too.”

For more information on 4-H and youth programming, contact Allyson James at the Kleberg-Kenedy County AgriLife Extension office at (361) 595-8566.

Anthony Ruiz can be contacted at aruiz@king-ranch.com or (361) 221-0251.

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