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Aggie celebrates birthday with ‘Happy Toes’ project

Alex+Dempsey%2C+class+of+2014%2C+hopes+to+collect+2%2C300+pairs+of+socks+to+donate+to+a+homeless+shelter+in+San+Antonio.
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Alex Dempsey, class of 2014, hopes to collect 2,300 pairs of socks to donate to a homeless shelter in San Antonio.

When thinking of birthdays, things like piñatas and party streamers might come to mind. But for her 23rd birthday, Alex Dempsey, Class of 2014, has something a little bit different on her wish list — socks.
2,300 pairs, to be exact. 
Dempsey, a marketing coordinator for Chick-fil-A in San Antonio, hopes to collect donations of 2,300 pairs of socks to donate to San Antonio’s chronically homeless population through an operation she has named “Happy Toes.”
Dempsey is working with the support of Chick-fil-A as well as two organizations in San Antonio that work to serve the homeless population: St. Vincent De Paul and Haven for Hope.
This will be Dempsey’s third annual birthday donation project. Her first project was in honor of her 21st birthday.
“I was born on April 21 and was turning 21,” Dempsey said. “All of my friends kept saying, ‘Oh that’s your golden birthday, where you go all out and it’s the best birthday ever.’ I was buying into it. I thought I was going to have this huge party, and then I thought I wanted to celebrate
my birthday in a way to give back.”
That year, Dempsey, along with the help of A&M students, collected and donated 21,000 diapers for the Crisis Pregnancy Center in San Antonio.
“That was really successful, and everyone was really excited about it,” Dempsey said. “When I turned 22, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I want to do something again.’”
Last year, she raised $2,200 to donate to an organization called “Be not Afraid” that specializes in crisis pregnancies.
“Now that I am turning 23, my goal is to raise 2,300 pairs of socks to donate to Haven for Hope, a big homeless shelter here in San Antonio,” Dempsey said.
Dempsey said she first came up with the idea after she met with St. Vincent de Paul while volunteering with Chick-fil-A at the Hope for Haven homeless shelter.
Each month, three locations of Chick-fil-A in the San Antonio area go to the shelter to provide meals to the homeless. Jesus Almendarez, manager of the Chick-fil-A on Bandera Road, said the business, along with two other locations, feed more than 400 people each month through a program set up by St. Vincent de Paul.
Dempsey said she became much more aware of the chronic homeless problem in her community from these monthly visits through the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
 “It really opened my eyes to a problem we have here,” Dempsey said. “I thought, ‘What can I do to help?’”
She began to research ways to give to the homeless, in collaboration with Laura Dupree, executive director of the San Antonio St. Vincent de Paul Society.
“I read online that that is something that rarely gets donated, such as socks,” Dempsey said. “And when they are donated, most of time they are already previously used until they are no longer good.”
Dupree said socks are always an important item for the homeless.
“Sometimes they don’t have shoes, or they wear just flip flops and sandals in the winter, and then their feet get cold,” Dupree said. “It keeps their feet warm in the winter and dry, and year-round people need socks.”
Dupree said misconceptions often surround homelessness.
 “I’d say that there is definitely a lack of public knowledge and public awareness,” Dupree said. “Thank goodness that there are special people like Alex who are there to help.”
In addition to her sock drive, Dempsey is also creating an event that includes both A&M students and members of the San Antonio community — Crazy Sock Day — on Thursday.
“The idea behind that is that hopefully people will take notice, and go, ‘Well what’s that about?’” Dempsey said. “I think it can be another way to talk about this problem that we have and get people to be talking about it.”
Dupree said the work Dempsey was doing helped to raise awareness, all while serving the members of the San Antonio community.
“She’s definitely killing two birds with one stone addressing a need that the homeless have,” Dupree said. “They do need socks, and they do need to keep their feet warm and dry. And she’s definitely raising public awareness through her outreach in social media and streamlined media as well.”

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