A month ago, gospel recording artist Jonathan Bond, who leads the Chattanooga-based ministry "Extended Arms," was literally praying for God to provide him with socks.
Today, he's got more socks than he can manage alone.
“We were handing out clothes about a month ago, and I had about 30 pairs of socks this particular day. We had about 130 people and it seemed like every one of them asked for socks," Bond explains.
"It was a wet day and when I left there I felt almost defeated because we didn’t have enough socks, you know. I said, ‘God, where can I get a whole bunch of socks?'
"God opened the door," says Bond. "We prayed about socks for the homeless and I guess it was a week later we got a call from Mr. Herman and Ms. Carol saying, 'Hey, can you use socks?'
"So we've got socks now," he says with a smile.
Carol Busby and Herman Johnson, both of Mentone, are part of Bond's ministry, which serves seven states in the Southeast.
Rowland Hendon was aware of their participation in Extended Arms when he saw the number of socks left over in the old Bailey Knitting Company building that his son, Tony, recently purchased. After discussing it, the two men agreed that donating the socks would be the best thing to do.
"He knew Herman and I were doing a ministry for Johnathan down here in this area. He asked if we needed some socks," says Busby. "Little did we know there were three million."
Bond is grateful for the gift and is reaching out to the community for help getting them ready to distribute to those who need them.
He and fellow humanitarian Stella Parton were in Fort Payne Wednesday to check on the progress of getting all the socks cleaned, paired, packaged and ready to distribute to those in need.
"If you need socks or if you want to help us, we can definitely use your help in just pairing them together and getting everything ready," says Bond.
He says to get more information on all the ways you can help, you can visit his websites jonathanbond.com or extendedarmsproject.com .You can also call 423-280-0547. "Now that's my personal cell phone number, so don't give it out," he laughs.
"Johnathan asked me to be over the project, to help organize and get the socks out. Little did I know that there was so much to do in getting this many socks organized and ready!" says Busby. "And yes, as Johnathan said, we can really use your help to come to get them prepared and ready for distribution. We've got several different ways of doing it. You can do it from home as well. We try to make it easy for people (to help). So just let us know. My personal cell number is 256-899-2560."
Outside of being the founder and president of Extended Arms Project, Johnathan Bond is also a well-known Southern Gospel singer/songwriter and author. He began singing with two of his cousins in The McClure Trio and later he toured in a trio known as Young Harmony. He's been serving in full-time ministry since 1995 and was inducted into the North America Country Music Hall of Fame in 2008. He just recorded and released a new duet with Stella Parton called "A Better Place".
Parton genuinely admires the work that Bond does through the ministry.
"It’s like, 57,000 people that have eaten from Extended Arms Project this past year," says Parton. "And he incorporates seven states in the Southeast. It's a wonderful, wonderful ministry and Johnathan is great."
The Hendon father and son guide the group through the 63,000 square foot property, mostly with the help of a headlamp, showing the stacks of boxes full of abandoned socks. As many as there are in view, they say there are just as many more stored in the basement.
They also point out the areas that Tony has began to work on.
“It’s going to be a two part business.” Explains Tony. “The plan up here in the majority of the building is going to be Fort Payne Storage Works, which will be climate controlled storage. The back of the building is going to be a sports training facility. So, we’ll have indoor batting cages and different types of sports training for the community.”
Stella seems excited by his plans to give the area youth a place to practice out of the elements.
“If you know anyone who needs lace,” says Roland, “these are boxes and boxes of rolls of lace.”
“I could make plenty of square dance dresses with that!” Stella remarks. Her ear to ear grin and positivity seems to be infectious among the group.
Reaching the main part of the warehouse again, rolling carts loaded with clean, folded socks are pointed out.
“We’ve completed 25 to 30 of these racks already, over 80,000 so far have been paired.”
That may seem like a lot, but it’s a long way from being complete. Three million is an unimaginable quantity until you actually see it for yourself. Busby is thankful for the volunteers they have had to step up so far, including one who is laundering everything for them.
“He does 95 pounds per load. We take them to him and he does them all for us for free. He was a blessing to find.” She says.
The sooner they can get more volunteers; the sooner the ministry can began distributing the socks to those who need them. Those wanting to help can work there in the warehouse or, as Busby explained, they will box them up for you to pair from the comfort of your home. They are reaching out to everyone: individuals, families, teams, youth groups, etc. Anyone is welcome to call and discuss whatever they can do, Busby and Johnson will be sure to help find the most convenient way for you to assist.
“I want to tell everyone,” says Bond, “April 22, from 10-3, we’re going to be working down here. Come help us—we’d love to have your help.
Bond also adds that if anyone in the area needs socks, for themselves, their family or for a group they work with, they are welcome to them as well.
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