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Brenau University helps Gainesville police stock up on emergency dolls
Sock monkeys used to help kids in need
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Art & Design Department Chair and Director of The Center for the Arts & Design Claudia Wilburn presents Gainesville Police Department Officer Maricela Del Rio with sock monkeys made made by Brenau students faculty and staff. The Gainesville Police Department keeps stuffed animals and other toys to help children in upsetting situations. - photo by AJ Reynolds

Brenau University is helping comfort children one sock monkey at a time.

The Center for the Arts and Design at Brenau recently delivered about 20 handmade sock monkeys to the Gainesville Police Department, which will be used to comfort children after traumatic experiences.

“One of the initiatives, missions and goals of the center is community building,” said Claudia Wilburn, director for the Center for the Arts and Design. “The sock monkey project was a great way to build community in a couple of different ways.”

Oftentimes, after a car crash, fire or domestic situation, children are difficult to console. That’s why many in law enforcement carry toys and stuffed animals with them. They’re usually old used toys their kids don’t use anymore. They get the job done at the moment, but don’t last.

But after making a sock monkey of her own a few years ago, Wilburn set her mind on hosting a workshop to teach others how to do the same thing. And after her husband told her about the toys that law enforcement carry, she decided to tie that in as part of the community building.

The workshop encouraged people to make one sock monkey for themselves and one to donate.

“I made four sock monkeys,” said Alexandria Nause, a rising senior and fashion design major at Brenau. “So three went to the donation and I kept one for myself.”

She showed up to the workshop in an effort to get her roommate out of the house to do something new and fun. Her roommate, an English major, didn’t have much experience sewing, so Nause was able to help her and some of the others that showed up to the workshop.

Nause has plenty of experience with making sock monkeys. When she was just 15 years old, she knitted one on her own.

“Instead of making it out of socks, I knitted the entire thing,” Nause said. “I’ve always loved sock monkeys, so I was excited to actually make one out of socks.”

It’s not an easy process, especially for the inexperienced. Although it only took Nause about 45 minutes — she’s been sewing since she was 3 years old — to make one sock monkey, it took Wilburn about three hours.

“We showed people how to use sewing machines, how to use batting and put it inside the sock monkey, how to sew the mouth on, sew the arms on,” Wilburn said. “I think we will do this again because it was a lot of fun, but we did learn some things.”

She said next time, they’ll make some parts ahead of time so they’re able to make more sock monkeys, which in turn, will help more children.

That’s the main reason Nause was there in the first place.

“I like being helpful in general, so I figured that if we could make a whole bunch of cute sock monkeys, kids would like them,” Nause said. “I figured kids would really appreciate a bunch of cute stuffed animals.”

When the box of sock monkeys was handed off to the Gainesville Police Department, Wilburn said the officer was surprised to be getting something brand new and handmade. The reaction was worth it and knowing the sock monkeys are going to a good cause made it all the better.

“She was a little surprised, I think, and intrigued,” Wilburn said. “Because nobody has ever made stuffed animals … She was pleasantly surprised and entertained that we were giving her a box of sock monkeys.”

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Sock monkeys wait to be delivered to the Gainesville Police Department. Gainesville police keep stuffed animals and other toys to help children in upsetting situations. - photo by AJ Reynolds
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