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story.lead_photo.caption Democrat photo/Liz MoralesJanet and Ed Miller, parents of the late “Gentle Ben,” stand proudly with their donations of new socks. The Millers started Gentle Ben’s Socks for the Homeless last year.

There is nothing quite like the feeling of brand new socks first thing in the morning to start one's day.

This sentiment was embraced by Ben Miller, a man whose parents described him as "a big ol' bear."

"He was a natural born comedian," his mother Janet said. "He had a gentle soul and just loved to help people, but it was never for show."

In August 2017, "Gentle Ben" Miller passed away in his sleep from a brain aneurysm. The unexpected nightmare redefined the Millers as a family, Janet said.

"When he died, all the stories of his generosity started to come out," Janet said. "There were more than we could ever imagine."

One such story Janet remembers involved what could have been a routine grocery shopping trip.

"I dropped him off at Walmart one day to go pick me up some bread. He was in there for what seemed like hours, but he finally came out with an older lady on his arm. He had seen her having trouble, so he took her everywhere she needed to go in the store and helped her get every item," Janet said.

With the understanding this type of generosity was nothing out of the ordinary for Ben, Janet and her husband, Ed, Ben's father, knew they had to continue the legacy of giving.

"We knew we had to do something to honor Ben," Janet said. "His sister, Brianna, suggested we donate socks to those who had nothing. I did some research and found that socks are the number one need in homeless shelters and the most under-given item."

Thus, Gentle Ben's Socks for the Homeless was born.

The idea for the charity was to collect all brand-new socks for men, women and children and donate the wares to homeless shelters in the California area. Last year was the first year of this venture, and the original goal of collecting 500 pairs was easily surpassed.

"I think we got in around 800 pairs last year," Ed said.

"Last year, we gave to the Salvation Army for those in need to have new socks to put in their stockings," Janet said. "When we were leaving, a few people came out and told us how grateful they were. They told us how bad it is to walk around all day with socks full of holes, or wet socks. So this donation meant a lot to them."

While the feat is a new one for the Miller family, they have a great support system all around the country. Friends in Alaska send the family socks to donate, benefit dinners are held in Applebees in Marshall and the Pancake House. Family in other parts of the nation have even started their own drives in honor of Gentle Ben.

"This year, we're trying to donate one thousand pairs to the Salvation Army and one thousand to the veteran's home in Columbia," Janet said.

As the drive will end each year, on Dec. 22, the family is working to let their collection grow.

For those interested in upcoming fundraisers and events for the cause, Janet welcomes them to like the Facebook page "Gentle Ben's Socks for the Homeless." To donate socks to the family, send them to P.O. Box 291 in California and make the packages out to "Gentle Ben's Socks."

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