Wilmot students head back to school with warm feet

Wilmot Family Resource Centre’s Client Care Coordinator Harpreet Dhaliwal and ToastyToes’ founder Sharon Gilroy-Dreher with 365 pairs of donated socks. (Photo ToastyToes)

Hundreds of students will be stepping back into the classroom with warm feet, thanks to ToastyToes’ donation of 365 pairs of socks to the Wilmot Family Resource Centre on Friday.

The charity shares socks with agencies across Waterloo region, and founder Sharon Gilroy-Dreher chose to support WFRC on the advice of her friend, New Dundee’s Megan Hall. Gilroy-Dreher got in touch with the centre to find out how many they needed. “We delivered 30 percent more than they asked for,” she said.

“The donations will be handed out through our Backpack Program,” said WFRC’s Client Care Coordinator, Harpreet Dhaliwal. “The program helps send local children and youth back to school with supplies to start the new school year off right.”

Families can register for the program via the WFRC’s website, and then schedule a curbside pick-up during office hours.

Dhaliwal thinks the generous donation means that every registered child will receive a pair of socks, and there should be some left over for families who may need extra clothing items during the fall and winter months.

Family hardships caused by COVID-19 will probably lead to an uptick in demand for donations like this.

“We are expecting an increase of food support requests in the coming months, so this most likely will also be the case for clothing and other essential needs,” said Dhaliwal.

Members of the public can contact WFRC to donate directly, either by calling 519-662-2731 or emailing ac.ertnececruoserylimaftomliw@ofni. Information is available at www.wilmotfamilyresourcecentre.ca.

Gilroy-Dreher first began collecting socks for people in need in 2013, on what would have been her mother’s 80th birthday.

“She had passed away a few years earlier, and I was feeling very sorry for myself that I wasn’t planning a party for her. I took some of her advice to heart. ‘When you’re feeling sorry for yourself, do something for someone else, to take your mind off your troubles.’”

Family and friends donated to her first drive, and she collected 492 pairs, easily beating her target of 80. So far, Gilroy-Dreher’s drive has resulted in more than 126,000 donated pairs of socks.

“A friend who works at a shelter told me that socks were the most needed and least donated item,” said Gilroy-Dreher.

Facing similar challenges to many charities, COVID has kicked ToastyToes’ usual donation drive to the curb, said Gilroy-Dreher.

“We’re dealing with guidelines around physical distancing, limiting group gatherings, maintaining family social circles. All of those combined mean we can’t host an in-person Community Collection Day, as we’ve done in the past.”

Many companies still have staff working from home, so a physical campaign in one location isn’t feasible, either.

However, Gilroy-Dreher didn’t want to ignore the needs of vulnerable people in the community, so she decided to “pivot and innovate” by making her campaign digital. Partnering with Kitchener Waterloo Community Foundation (KWCF), ToastyToes is launching its first ever virtual campaign.

From October 10, supporters will be able to make financial donations at www.kwcf.ca/toastytoes/, which will qualify for tax receipts. The campaign is challenging 5,000 people in the region to donate $20 each.