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Meet Riley Beres of Socks for Souls

Today we’d like to introduce you to Riley Beres.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Riley . So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
About six years ago, my friend and I were asked to collaborate on serving breakfast to the homeless at St. David’s Church on behalf of Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission and Children in Film. It was a leadership project that involved a mini-PSA on how teens can volunteer and make a difference. I met a man there who asked me if he could tell his story. I didn’t set out to hear a story, I was just there to help serve breakfast and ask questions from the coordinators on ways youth can get involved and help serve. This man, however, forever touched my heart not only with his story, but by his actions. He just wanted to say, “Thank You” and tell how he became homeless and his hopes for a brighter future through services and people like us.

This encounter really inspired me to look at the homeless a little differently and I wanted to explore the many different faces of homelessness, the different reasons people became homeless, and try to have a better understanding towards the growing population while dispelling stereotypes. So, I asked my friend if he would like to join me in making a documentary on homelessness in LA. We did! I have to say, that the filming experience was life-changing. I was happy to have my friend be a part of the filming process. The documentary has served its purpose and hopefully will continue to do so –see it here “Hope for our Own: an LA Story.”

During the filming process, we interviewed a gentleman who worked with one of the shelters, he mentioned “that there just isn’t nearly enough socks to give and it is difficult to maintain a constant supply. We are always in desperate need of clean, new socks and undergarments.” At that moment, I found my answer on how to continue to help the people of Los Angeles in one small, continuous way. I created Socks for Souls, Inc. as a way to restore dignity to those experiencing hardship, one pair of socks at a time. It’s a simple premise really, giving a person a brand new pair of socks. What many of us take for granted each morning as part of our ritual to get ready for the day, is not possible for others.

In the end, though, it really was one man’s words for the foundation of Socks for Souls, Inc., the journey we are on and the lessons we will learn along the way.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
For the most part, it has been pretty smooth. I think our biggest obstacles have been finances. As a non-profit we rely on financial donations to keep our operations running. At Socks for Souls, Inc. we don’t take a salary, it just really isn’t part of our mission. We focus primarily on receiving socks from drives and redistributing them to shelter organizations and non-profit agencies that service working poor and homeless within Los Angeles County. Yet, we do have operational costs – gas, boxing and labeling supplies, transportation costs, etc. Overall, though, we have been very fortunate to receive donations at just the right time to help us meet costs.

Socks for Souls, Inc. – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I guess what we are known for is socks! Our specialty: Socks for Soul, Inc. is a non-profit 501[c][3] that was founded for the sole purpose of providing essential items such as socks, undergarments and toiletries to the homeless and working poor residing in Los Angeles County. Our mission and what we do is pretty simple: provide clean socks, toiletries and undergarments to the homeless by conducting and encouraging sock drives within the LA Community. Through educational seminars and events, Socks for Souls, Inc. aims to recruit companies, colleges, schools, families and service clubs to host drives of their own, collecting those everyday essentials. Then, we collect them and distribute them in their name to those organizations in need.

I think as the founder, I am most proud of the people of Los Angeles County. We have been so fortunate to receive a constant flow of donations that let us keep a constant flow of socks. One day, last summer, through the amazing sock drive of the Parking Enforcement division of Los Angeles County we were able to deliver 2,000 pairs of socks the Union Rescue Mission. This was a big dream of mine to be able to deliver large quantities to organizations that work with large populations of homelessness on a daily basis. At the time of delivery, they were completely out of socks and did not know what they were going to do. It felt amazing to fill that need.

This is documented in our YouTube We were also able to go to LA Mission and many more locations. The service workers that we have created relationships with are always very grateful and it is just a “feel” good moment to know you are making a small, but important difference in someone’s life. Another feel-good moment was when an outreach official that we work with at Harbor Interfaith Services share with us that the socks we donate became the bridge to bring a veteran off the streets and that veteran is now in housing. Coming from a military upbringing, this meant the world to me and is worth every moment of labor and work to run the non-profit.

I think what sets us apart from others is going above and beyond. We will offer videos, pictures and community participation with the sock drives. We love to establish long-term relationships and transparency. We let the donors know where the socks went and how they helped others. In this, we have established long-term partnerships with agencies like Advancement of Latinos at Metro Association, Seniors of Whittier Palms, etc. It starts to feel like family.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
This is a hard one. Socks for Souls, Inc. is what I do on the side from acting, filmmaking and full-time college student. So career with the non-profit, gosh…. there have been so many. A little Sockumentary I did about the non-profit took me to the White House to meet former President Obama at a Student Film Festival and the Sockumentary was screen at the White House and across the nation, that felt amazing to get the word out to so many.

Taking before and after photos of men and women transitioning into housing at formerly known, Lamp Community was a really proud moment. The individuals came to what we named Dude and Diva days. The coordinator at the time arranged for barbers to attend the event and I was responsible for taking before and after pictures as well as distributing new socks, undergarments and clothing. It was such a monumental experience to see the confidence grow and smiles.

Delivering socks to Union Rescue Mission when they needed it most was also exciting. I think, though, some photos I recently received from both The Beacon House and True Circle organizations made me feel the most proud. They were touching photos of individuals receiving socks from outreach organizations, it just made me think, “you know, we are a very small part of what amazing people do every day but it sure feels great.”

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