Monkey drop gets to swinging

Their arms and legs are lanky and their hair can often get a little crazy, but a local ministry hopes their sock monkeys will swing into the hearts of children and soldiers who need a little bit of joy.

&8220;When everyone works together we are working for one cause, to reach out to other people who need encouragement,&8221; said Beth VanSickle, ministry founder.

Sock Monkey Ministries Inc. plans to hold &8220;Operation Monkey Drop,&8221; March 23-24 and March 30-31 in the parking lot of Michael&8217;s off of U.S. 280.

The expectation of the supply drive is to collect enough materials [yarn, thread, needles and stuffing] to create 1,000 or more sock monkeys to send to troops who are preparing for duty in Iraq.

&8220;Each sock monkey will be designed with a yellow ribbon pinned to their chest to let soldiers know that people back home are behind them. The soldiers then have two options – they can keep them or they can give them to a child they come across,&8221; VanSickle said. &8220;We are doing a lot to support troops already, but we can never do enough.&8221;

VanSickle created the ministry out of a need for encouragement herself. While living in Texas she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer and was bed-ridden, which limited her ability to work with the missions she was already involved in.

&8220;I just wanted to make 100 sock monkeys and give them to homeless people so they would know God loved them,&8221; VanSickle said.

What she didn&8217;t realize was how quickly it would take off. Since the project began in February 2005 the ministry has provided 3,800 stuffed animals to children in 26 states and countries all over the world.

Throughout the months of March, April and May the organization will be working with students at Chelsea Intermediate School to create at least 350 monkeys, but students are shooting for 700.

Anyone who is interested can participate in the drive or volunteer to help make the stuffed animals.

The ministry&8217;s website is www.sockmonkeyministry.co