As Toronto plunged into a record-snapping freeze this February, a ‘Sock-O-Meter’ at Kimberley Junior Public School got warmer every day.
Drawn by students in Carol Comeau’s Grade 2/3 class, the Sock-O-Meter showed how much money the class raised to buy warm socks for people who are homeless.
One student, Winni, wrote in the Kimberley newsletter that she was shocked how much they raised – $404.65, all of it from hosting ‘toonie’ parties and doing paid chores at home.
Instead of simply sending the money away, Mrs. Comeau’s class walked along Queen Street on a sunny, but -18°C day to buy the socks themselves.
On the way, they passed a homeless man with a ‘Spare us a smile’ sign.
“I felt bad for him in winter, not wearing snow pants,” said Winni. “I mean it was FREEZING out there.”
When the class arrived at Ends, a Queen Street shop known for sock deals, the manager donated another $150 to the sock fund.
“The children were gloriously happy,” said parent Nadia Dunn.
“We charged into Ends, and they had a major calculating exercise to see how many socks they could buy.”
Once they had the answer – 543 pairs – students zipped around the store to pick out the warmest wool socks they could find.
Next, the class popped into a nearby children’s bookstore, Ella Minnow, to warm up with hot chocolate and hear owner Heather Kuiper read The Magic Beads. It tells the story of seven year-old Lillian, who has to do a Show and Tell at school just after she and her mom fled her abusive father and moved to a shelter with hardly any things.
Finally, the students learned about the importance of warm, dry socks from two nurses, Ruth Ewart and Beth Hayhoe, who work with street-involved youth and homeless people at the Evergreen Health Centre.
Started by Ewart 21 years ago, the Yonge Street centre runs a weekly clinic where volunteer nurses offer foot soakings and massages as well as treating athlete’s foot, broken and ingrown toenails, and other problems that afflict people living on the streets or in shelters.
Speaking to Beach Metro News, Ewart said people often leave their shoes and socks on when sleeping in shelters because they can get stolen otherwise.
“If we can help them with a good pair of dry, clean socks that can make a huge difference to their foot health and health overall,” she said.
After raising the money, hand-picking the socks, and learning more about homelessness, Dunn said she could see the Kimberley students “completely getting it.”
“There’s no sense of separation, I think,” said Dunn. “They feel that anybody could be in this situation.”
For more information about Evergreen Health Centre or to make a donation, visit www.ysm.ca.
Thanks to Kimberley student Alia Dunn, whose reporting contributed to this article.