While some kids may mistake posting hashtags on social media as activism, this Long Island teenager is putting in real-world work toward helping those less fortunate in their time of need.
After seeing homeless people on the street in New York City as a child, Jackson Southerland researched the biggest needs of those living in shelters and used his inspiration to launch an annual sock drive. To date, the 13-year-old has donated hundreds of pairs of socks to the Long Island Coalition for the Homeless.
“Be grateful because you never know what can happen,” the 13-year-old Great Neck resident told WCBS-TV. “Your mom or dad could lose their job and you could be in the same position.”
In June 2018, Nassau and Suffolk counties had a combined 3,686 homeless people — about as many as there are residents in the Village of Lloyd Harbor on LI’s Gold Coast — a drop of nearly 3 percent from the year prior. Last year’s figures were not immediately available, but homelessness rates are expected to rise this year due to coronavirus pandemic.
For his efforts, the Long Island Coalition for the Homeless honored Southerland with the Amityville-based nonprofit’s Unsung Hero Award. The 8th grader is slated to accept the award on Nov. 18 at the group’s 32nd Annual Keys for the Homeless Conference, which will be held virtually this year due to COVID-19. He was also chosen as a featured speaker at the nonprofit’s 2019 Level Up Youth Empowerment Conference last year and is a Dare to Care Ambassador at his middle school.
Not that he’s resting on his laurels. Next month, Jackson will conduct a sock drive in his community to be distributed to the homeless during Christmas, just as he does every year. He also recently partnered with a store in Brooklyn that provides services to the homeless and donated 20 pairs of sneakers from his personal sneaker collection.