RIPLEY - Walking in to the Jackson County Health Department one can't help but notice the oddly decorated Christmas tree in the lobby. From top to bottom socks of every color, pattern and size adorn the evergreen's branches.

Threat Preparedness Director Wendy Crawford started Operation Toasty Toes after seeing a report on television.
Said Crawford, "The seed was planted when I saw Home Town Hero. They were honoring a lady who started a clothing closet in a school in West Virginia.

The director stated that the reason for the project was heartbreaking.
"The woman noticed that a little boy showed up at school wearing socks only on occasion. She asked him why he didn't wear socks all the time and he told her that his family only had one pair of socks and the family shared them," she continued,

"This story combined with the idea that another local health department has previously had a mitten tree in their lobby sparked the idea and Operation Toasty Toes was created."

According to Crawford 644 pair of new socks has been donated. She stated that teams are joining together to see who can donate the most socks.

"The Moovin' and Groovin' walking program began earlier in the summer. The participants requested additional activities throughout the year, so I decided that the Christmas tree providing socks to the needy folks (children and adults) would be an excellent project."

She stated that the leader of the walking group sent out a challenge to other groups to donate socks.
Said Crawford, "The response has been awesome. People have started teams to take the challenge and so far the Ripley Senior Center's Happy Feet team are in the lead with 258 pair of children socks. The children from Heritage Christian Academy took the challenge to help the needy and collected 148 pair of socks. Other folks participating in the challenge include: Cedar Lakes Conference Center, Kinder Kare Day Care, Ravenswood Insurance, River Valley Health and Wellness, Jackson County Health Department and Sweet Dreams Chocolate," reported the project coordinator. You don't have to be on a team to donate and anyone can join in on the project."

The rules for getting socks from the tree at the health department is limited to of one pair of socks per person. Socks cannot be taken for family, friends or neighbors.

The Health Department is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and the tree will be available through Christmas. Any left over socks will be donated to schools, day cares, senior centers, and veterans.