Barbara Hellmann wants people to remember the importance of socks on her birthday.
To break in her 60th year on this planet, Hellmann has decided to do something to help others.
So she chose a cause that is not too costly to support but at the same time makes a big difference — The Joy of Sox.
People often take clothes to the Salvation Army, but socks are sometimes forgotten even though keeping warm feet is a basic comfort of life, Hellmann said.
“We put them on every day and think nothing of it,” Hellmann said.
She remembers recently seeing a homeless person in Washington, and she left money at a local eatery so he could get some food. Seeing the man made her think that he could have been sent by Jesus.
She thought, “What if he’s Jesus. And how are we treating him?”
A pair of socks is about the same price as a greeting card, she added.
Her goal is to collect 600 pairs of socks through the month of March. All types of socks are accepted, but they must be brand new. The socks will be taken to missions in St. Louis, she said.
They can be dropped off at The Homestead at Hickory View, on 14th Street in Washington behind the fire headquarters, and Four Seasons, a florist in downtown Washington.
The Homestead will host a sock hop, open to the public, March 14 from 2:30-4:30 p.m., and it will include dancing and snacks for those who bring a pair of socks for the homeless.
A Life of Service
Hellmann said she may be so compassionate for others because of the heartache she and some of her family members have faced.
For instance, she said her parents had five miscarriages and lost two children at birth.
“My parents had a lot of heartache,” Hellmann said. “Maybe that’s why I have such a heart.”
Hellmann’s grandmother died at 36 of leukemia.
And then a huge loss occurred in Hellmann’s life when her mom died at the age of 82 in a vehicle accident four years ago.
While the loss was terrible, Hellmann has pressed forward in her mom’s honor.
“It probably makes me want to do more,” she said. “It makes me see how precious life is — how short it is.”
She added, “My goal is just to honor her by doing things for others. I think it makes her continue to live on.”
Hellmann is the director of community relations at The Homestead, an independent retirement community in Washington. She also has spearheaded other local charity events.
“The community is your family,” Hellmann said. “If you could just take every day and just visit with one person, no one would be lonely.”
One of the bigger charity events she helped start is the senior tram ride on the Washington riverfront the first Wednesday in June.
Hellmann said she has heard from seniors who look forward to the tram ride event more than Christmas. Seniors ride down the riverfront trail in trolly-type vehicles pulled by a tractor.
“I just think that the seniors are so valuable,” Hellmann said. “I think they have so much to give, so much to share.”
And she also helped start the Tannenbaum Auction, which takes place at The Homestead, to benefit the Emmaus Home. This year the event raised $24,000.
Hellmann put together the first dinner auction for her church, St. Gertrude. Her first organized act of charity may have been when she raised money for leukemia, and she said this goes back to her grandmother dying of the disease.
Despite all the good she has done, she said it is hard to talk about herself.
Hellmann grew up boating, skiing and fishing on the Missouri River.
“I always said you could bury me on the river,” Hellmann said.
Her dad delivered bread, and her mom worked in the Washington High School kitchen.
Her husband, Donald, also is a native of Washington, and he is a maintenance man at The Homestead after retiring from Ford Motor Company.
They met on a dare when she was working at a grocery store, and his friend dared him to ask her on a date. On the first date, he forgot his wallet, and they had to scrape together change to eat at Steak ’n Shake in St. Louis.
The couple has a motorcycle and has traveled West. Hellmann recalls one time they were on top of a mountain, and her husband told her to reach to the sky and she would touch her mom.
Now they have three children — Tamie Crecelius of Pacific, Misty Wilson of Marthasville and Travis Hellmann of Washington.
Hellmann, a St. Francis Borgia Regional High School graduate, worked at the former Droege’s supermarket for 27 years, starting when she was 16.
She rose through the supermarket ranks from a checker to training and hiring.
Next, Hellmann worked for 10 years in customer service for a firm that printed food boxes.
After that, Hellmann wanted to devote her work to making a difference, so she emailed The Homestead and landed a job there.
She is proud to be from a town with so much community spirit.
“Washington is the most volunteering town you will ever see,” Hellmann said. “I’m no different from anyone else.”