Sock collection

Evan Merkel, left, and Wayde Schafer sort a box of socks collected for people with few clothing items entering the United States.

Standing in the 105-degree heat of the Arizona desert, Evan Markel could feel his socks thoroughly drenched in sweat.

He spent several hours there last summer, and it was long enough for him to gain a sense of the treacherous conditions people encounter as they cross the Mexico-U.S. border without permission.

Sometimes, they forge the rugged landscape with aching feet rubbed raw by worn, wet socks.

“An extra pair of socks is often the last thing they think to bring,” Markel said.

The trip inspired the 18-year-old to organize a sock drive through the Bismarck-Mandan Unitarian Universalist Church. The effort, which runs through February, has brought in 1,000 pairs so far.

The socks will go to No Mas Muerte, a ministry of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson that in English translates to “No More Deaths.” The organization puts them in care packages to be placed throughout the desert.

“This is not invested in politics,” said Wayde Schafer, one of the organizers of the sock drive. “These are people that have a need, and that is what we are addressing.”

Local UU youth spearheading the project are reaching out to the community for help.

Markel, for one, gave a presentation to the Mandan High School Spanish club. A Simle Middle School student organized a campaign at high school. Other youth at Bismarck High School and Century High School plan to launch a competition to see who can bring in the most socks.

They also have posted flyers at Dan’s Supermarkets and the library to solicit more donations. They seek socks for people of all ages, particularly ones for women and children.

To donate, drop socks off in the bin outside the front entrance of the church at 818 E. Divide Ave.

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(Reach Amy R. Sisk at 701-250-8267 or amy.sisk@bismarcktribune.com.)