The 2022 Montreal Sock It To Me campaign is underway to collect socks for the homeless, and its founder is appealing for donations.
Barry Christensen needs new socks. Lots of them. In fact, he’d like thousands of pairs of new socks, and he’d like you to donate them.
For the eighth consecutive year, Mr. Christensen is overseeing the Montreal Sock It To Me campaign to collect socks for homeless Montrealers.
He became aware of the need for socks in his capacity as a paramedic with Urgences Santé, a job he’s done for the past 41 years. “Homeless people often have chronically wet feet,” he says. “It can lead to foot rot, all sorts of problems.”
In 2005, Mr. Christensen was assigned to a position as an on-site primary paramedic in the Berri-UQAM Metro station. He administered first aid to people travelling on the subway. “This was Montreal’s first taste of community para-medicine,” he said in an interview with West Island Home & Life. “I got to work with many outreach workers from various missions in the city. Our office was a little clinic.” The experience made him acutely aware of the plight of Montreal’s homeless people.
When he returned to work in the ambulances in 2015, Mr. Christensen says, he “decided to help the little guy on the block. I helped out in the kitchen at St. Michael’s Mission, downtown. I heard about someone doing a sock drive in another city and decided to do one here to get socks for homeless people helped by St. Michael’s Mission.”
He put out the word to friends and family and collected 464 pairs of socks “through word of mouth.” The number of donations increased yearly until 2019, when the campaign garnered 5,000 pairs. “And then in 2020, COVID hit and everything was shut down,” he said. “I thought it would be difficult to collect socks that year, but people were home with nothing to do. The students at St. Thomas High School collected them and so did the employees at Laurentide Controls in Kirkland. And we closed the campaign with 25,000 pairs of donated socks. We also took in hats, gloves and gently used winter coats.”
Last year, Mr. Christensen, a Pointe-Claire resident, ran for a city council seat in the November municipal election. “I was a little distracted and late ramping up the campaign,” he recalled. “So we collected only 9,000 pairs.”
He hopes to collect many more this year. To that end, several West Island merchants have agreed to use their businesses as drop-off points for anyone wishing to donate (see the list below). “However, I am still in search of a storefront in which to warehouse the socks,” Mr. Christensen says. “When socks come in, I put them into bags of 200. What’s critical now is to find space to warehouse and sort everything. I need a place to which I will have easy access. Ideally, it should be west of Highway 15.”
Mr. Christensen, whose charity is called Stepping Up, says that socks have become an excellent means for outreach workers to approach and help the homeless. “Offering a pair of socks to someone who might otherwise be afraid of speaking to a social worker is a great icebreaker,” he says. “Everyone needs something.”
The campaign will run through the month of November. New socks, as well as hats, mitts or gloves and coats (for men and women), can be dropped at the following locations:
* Gilbert and Daughter, 49 Donegani Ave., Valois, Pointe-Claire
* Boutique Lois Butler, 294 ch. Bord du lac/Lakeshore Rd., Pointe-Claire Village
* Terrafolia Flowers, 3375 Sources Blvd., Dollard-des-Ormeaux
For more information about Stepping Up and the2022 Sock It To Me campaign, see the charity’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/MontrealSockItToMe.