Delaware ninth-grader helping needy to avoid cold feet

Clockwise from left, Veni Jayakumar, Saan and Adhithi Venkatesan and Priya Jayakumar of Charity Crossing organize socks ahead of distributing them to needy people in the state. (Submitted photo)

DOVER — This holiday season, Priya Jayakumar, along with her family and friends that make up Charity Crossing, have been working with Code Purple and various other organizations to keep the needy’s feet warm.

Priya, a ninth-grader from Bear, has led the charge to get Feb. 14 recognized as “Socks for the Homeless” day in the state. The Wilmington City Council adopted it and in mid-November, Kent County Levy Court commissioners agreed to put it on their calendars as well. Priya has her eyes on the General Assembly next.

“We reached out to Delaware’s senators and representatives and they said when their session opens in January, they are planning to get a resolution, put it on their agenda and pass it,” she said.

Philanthropy has been a big part of the driven youngster’s life. Two years ago, the family formalized their dedication to giving when they started their own charity.

“It was my dad’s 50th birthday and he decided that he wanted to do something special, so we started Charity Crossing,” she said.

Priya’s father, Jay Muthukamatchi, said helping is something he also learned at a young age by observing his mother’s willingness to help her neighbors.

In mid-December, Priya Jayakumar, center, and Dhivya Gynani, left, visited the Code Purple shelter at the Presbyterian Church of Dover on State Street with Charity Crossing to hand out socks and other assorted items to homeless people. (Submitted photo)

“We’re very proud about how seriously Priya takes helping others,” said Mr. Muthukamatchi. “It’s great that she’s helping the homeless, but she’s working with her classmates and other young people too, so it helps them as well by getting them involved early in taking care of needy people. It’s good for them to learn these things, because our children are our future.”

Since the start of Charity Crossing, the organization has attached itself to a number of other charity efforts and grown. A few years ago, Priya’s family worked together to send a large donation back to Chennai, India — where much of her family is originally from — when they suffered a severe flood.

“We were able to send two 40-foot containers full of clothing and other household necessities to try to help,” said Priya. “When I’ve gone to visit, I’ve also had the chance to visit orphanages and meet lots of children who truly have nothing. It’s made me always want to help, but also appreciate what I have.”

During the winter months, Priya has a special affinity for donating articles of clothing to the needy. Over the past several years, Charity Crossing has helped collect and distribute over 10,000 pairs of socks. Hearing about similar Socks for the Homeless initiatives in New York and Pennsylvania, she was encouraged by her parents and teachers to pursue getting the giving day established in Delaware.

“We figure it’s Valentine’s Day, the day we celebrate love, so it would be a good one to give a gift of warmth,” said Priya. “Also, when you establish a day — like Giving Tuesday, for example — it helps raise awareness and gives people who want to help an idea about how they can.”

Charity Crossing receives donations both from individuals and from other organizations. Joy of Socks, a retailer who donates one pair of socks per pair purchased, has provided Priya with a much of her stock. Going into the winter months, Priya said they had around 3,000 pairs stockpiled and ready to be handed out. She’s hoping to collect another 1,000 in the coming months.

Code Purple

When getting Socks for the Homeless Day on Kent County’s calendar, Charity Crossing connected with Rebecca Martin, the director of Code Purple Kent County. Code Purple opens its local homeless shelters when temperatures fall below freezing overnight from Dec. 1 until March 31. During December, Priya has worked with Code Purple and distributed socks, towels, underwear, snacks, breakfast items and coffee at their shelters, such as the one at the Presbyterian Church of Dover on State Street.

According to estimates, about 800 people are homeless on any given day in Delaware. Socks and other warm articles can often be the difference between warmth and serious injury.

“In the winter, less fortunate people suffer so much worse in the cold,” said Priya. “They can get frostbite on their feet and hands, or their feet get so cold they can’t even walk somewhere to get help.”

Charity Crossing has also handed out clothing and socks with Premiere Charities in Wilmington and shelters for sober living in Newark and Harrington.

“I like to help because it brings me joy to actually do something that has a positive effect on a needy person’s life,” said Priya.

“At the sober living homes, people come in off the street with absolutely nothing, and sometimes they even have their children they bring with them. Providing for them and making them comfortable is a way to help them live a better life and get back on their feet.”

Getting back on your feet is easier if they’re nice and toasty. If Charity Crossing has its way, there won’t be a cold foot in Delaware this winter.

To donate or get involved in distribution, call (225) 522-1245, email info@CharityCrossing.org or visit CharityCrossing.org.

Staff writer Ian Gronau can be reached at 741-8272 or igronau@newszap.com

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