ToastyToes cam­paign col­lects socks for home­less

Waterloo Region Record - - Local - JO­HANNA WEIDNER jwei­d­ner@there­cord.com Twit­ter: @Wei­d­nerRecord

KITCH­ENER — New warm socks are wel­come and es­sen­tial for peo­ple who are home­less or at risk.

Sharon Gil­roy-Dre­her is on a mis­sion to en­sure there’s a pair for ev­ery­one in Water­loo Re­gion who needs them.

Her ini­tia­tive ToastyToes started off small in 2013 among friends and fam­ily. Now it’s a re­gion­wide cam­paign ev­ery fall backed by schools, com­pa­nies and or­ga­ni­za­tions.

Last year, Gil­roy-Dre­her col­lected 32,400 pairs, which piled up in her fam­ily’s Kitch­ener home.

“We were buried in socks,” she joked. “At any given time, we had 20,000 pairs.”

In five years, 46,282 pairs of socks have been do­nated to those in need, thanks to ToastyToes.

“Last year, it ex­ploded,” she said. “I just think it’s won­der­ful that peo­ple are so sup­port­ive in Water­loo Re­gion.”

There’s no set goal for this year’s cam­paign, run­ning un­til Nov. 10.

“Ev­ery sin­gle pair makes a dif­fer­ence to one per­son,” Gil­roy-Dre­her ex­plained.

She started ToastyToes in hon­our of her mother Josephine Gil­roy af­ter see­ing a call for socks for the Out of the Cold pro­gram.

It seemed the per­fect fit. Her mother fre­quently gave socks as gifts, say­ing that peo­ple al­ways need them. Gil­roy-Dre­her added, “my mom al­ways had cold feet.”

To mark what would have been her mother’s 80th birthday, Gil­roy-Dre­her asked for sock dona­tions — hop­ing for 80 pairs and get­ting nearly 500.

She didn’t have a sock drive the fol­low­ing year, but it’s be­come a fall tra­di­tion for her since then with the num­ber of dona­tions — both in socks and cash to buy pairs — ris­ing at an amaz­ing pace.

Gil­roy-Dre­her fig­ures peo­ple get on board with the cause be­cause it’s some­thing peo­ple eas­ily un­der­stand.

“Ev­ery­one knows what it’s like to have a hole in your socks or wet socks,” she said.

Wear­ing dis­in­te­grat­ing or dirty socks is not only un­com­fort­able, it can cause se­ri­ous health is­sues such as blis­ters, sores and in­fec­tions. Socks are the most-re­quested item at shel­ters, but they’re also the least do­nated.

Last year, 22 groups re­ceived socks from ToastyToes. This year, all the socks are go­ing to the Cam­bridge Self-Help Food Bank and The Work­ing Cen­tre to dis­trib­ute.

Gil­roy-Dre­her is also thank­fully mov­ing the grow­ing op­er­a­tion out of her home.

The Sal­va­tion Army in Kitch­ener is lend­ing its gym for two days at the end of the cam­paign for the main drop-off point. Com­mu­nity col­lec­tion spots are also at lo­cal YMCA and Li­bro Credit Union branches.

Oth­ers are col­lect­ing socks as well, of­ten as a friendly com­pe­ti­tion among col­leagues or neigh­bours.

Ch­eryl de Kon­ing’s daugh­ter sparked a chal­lenge in her neigh­bour­hood of Beech­wood Bri­dle­gate. At Claire’s 11th birthday party in Au­gust, she asked for socks in­stead of presents.

“She was kind of sur­prised that she col­lected 108 pairs just from her friends,” said de Kon­ing, who is on the so­cial com­mit­tee of the home­own­ers’ as­so­ci­a­tion.

Now they’ve chal­lenged neigh­bours to match that num­ber by drop­ping off socks in the bas­ket on the fam­ily’s front porch, and nearby Keatsway Pub­lic School is also join­ing in.

Kitch­ener’s Ali­son Vasey, who has do­nated socks to ToastyToes for a cou­ple of years, charged her fam­ily a “sock ad­mis­sion” to Thanks­giv­ing din­ner on Sun­day and col­lected 34 pairs.

“I thought this year I would ex­tend the chal­lenge to fam­ily,” Vasey said. “It was great to add a twist to help other peo­ple feel thank­ful.”

Next year she plans to ex­pand it to her Ok­to­ber­fest cel­e­bra­tion. Socks are cheap and it’s a sim­ple way for any­one to help out those who can’t af­ford some­thing most peo­ple take for granted.

“It’s an easy ask for peo­ple,” Vasey said.

Peo­ple can con­tact Gil­roy-Dre­her by email at ToastyToesWR@gmail.com or on Twit­ter at @ToastyToes_WR.

SHARON GIL­ROY-DRE­HER

ToastyToes started off small, then grew into a re­gion­wide cam­paign hap­pen­ing ev­ery fall.

Sharon Gil­roy-Dre­her, with her mother Josephine Gil­roy, col­lects socks ev­ery fall to do­nate to the home­less.

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