Marina’s Picks is a regular feature from CanadaHelps CEO, Marina Glogovac, highlighting some of the many charities she is personally passionate about. As a champion for smaller charities, Marina wants to help fellow Canadians discover some of the lesser known organizations that are working to make our communities better.
As the weather gets colder, many of us are looking forward to spending time with a group of family and friends, sharing stories and gifts, and gathering around a home-cooked meal—things many of us have gone without for far too long. As we do this, let’s also reflect on all we have to be grateful for, and remember to share with our communities.
The winter is especially hard for people experiencing homelessness or trying to make ends meet. As temperatures continue to plummet, charities like Toronto-based Just Socks are keeping our neighbours safe through the distribution of warm socks to people in need across Canada.
Founded in 2006, their charitable mission is right there in the name. “Socks are one of the most needed but one of the least donated items to shelters,” said Terry Smith, President of Just Socks. “Part of the reason is that they need to be new socks for sanitary purposes. Charities cannot accept worn socks.” When she and her family heard about this undersupply, they felt certain that they could help. Like the founding of so many charities in Canada, they wanted to turn their concern into action. They partnered with a local sock company, McGregor Socks (now PVH Legwear Canada). The company offered to not only sell them socks at an affordable rate, but create a special sock for their organization.
What is truly unique about Just Socks is that they operate entirely digitally. Instead of collecting new socks in donation bins, and then having to store and distribute them, they work directly with their supplier who then distributes the socks to their list of partner charities. “We started with just a few charities—I think 10 the first year—now we’ve grown to supporting over 100,” said Smith.
This process has enabled Just Socks to remain 100% volunteer and family-run. “We have no staff, we do it in our spare time. My kids are busy with their full-time jobs and their families. It’s really a labour of love,” said Smith. “Our costs are simply to purchase the socks, shipping, and our auditor.”
Like many of the charities I’ve spoken to over the past two years, the pandemic has resulted in a greater demand for their services. “Last year we had far more requests for socks. Because of COVID, there were more and more people going into the shelters, to out-of-the-cold programs, and to other places that distribute our socks,” said Smith. “Our demand was really high—we actually depleted our entire supply last year. Usually we have around 60,000-100,000 pairs to distribute for the year, and they were completely gone by last November. There were more charities in need of socks, and the charities that we regularly give to were asking for more socks. It was great to be able to help so many more people and that we had the supply for that.”
This year, the costs have increased substantially for the organization, also due to COVID. “The cost to create the sock is so much more, the cost to ship and the cost to store and distribute is way higher than it used to be,” explains Smith. “We used to say $1 buys a pair of socks, that has now increased to $1.50, which has really affected us.”
These increases in cost and demand were almost enough to shut them down. “We almost closed down a month or so ago because our supplier said that they couldn’t get socks to us by January. We were panicking. As a family we sat down and asked ‘Should we close up?’ My kids said ‘No Mom, we have to keep doing this regardless, we will find another way to get socks even if we have to buy them.’ I really give my kids credit for that.”
Luckily, they were able to overcome their supply chain issues and continue with their work for this winter. However, knowing how close many charities are to closing down is one of the things that keeps me up at night. This holiday season, I hope we will all keep our local and global neighbours in our hearts and support each other in whatever way we can.
Learn more about JustSocks Foundation Canada on their Charity Profile page.