The St. John’s (Port Dalhousie) Dignity Kit initiative has a new local partner. In the winter months, thanks to Socks For Change, our Dignity Kits now offer warm, durable, wool socks and neck warmers for men and women in need along with the regular underwear, hygiene, and grooming items that go into our kits. 

The Dignity Kit program began in 2017 as a collaboration among the parishes of St. Barnabas, St. Columba, and St. John’s, Port Dalhousie. After St. Columba formed their own group in 2018, in May of 2019 the sorting sessions were transferred to St. John’s. Our parishioners, along with some volunteers from St. Barnabas, enthusiastically support this ministry with generous donations and we have a dedicated team of volunteers who gather, sort, and knit items monthly.

Last year, chair Carol Lahey delivered over 250 individual kits along with bags of hand knit toques and gloves as well as larger shower and grooming supplies for the Start Me Up Niagara (SMUN) drop-in centre. SMUN clients line up eagerly each month to receive these kits. In both January and February alone this year, over 60 women’s and men’s kits were created. Our kits are packaged in practical hand sewn cloth bags that recipients enjoy. The bags are made by Connie Elkin, sister-in-law of Dignity Kit team member Marilyn Kanak and wife of Anglican priest Bob Elkin who are based in Thessalon, Ontario. 

At the end of last November, St. John’s Mission Strategy Committee recommended that the parish focus its Outreach initiatives and resources on local agencies that serve the homeless and those at risk of homelessness in our city. These include Out of the Cold, Start Me Up Niagara, and the Resource Association for Teens (RAFT). 

A parish council member, Colin Johnston, suggested we speak with Port Dalhousie entrepreneur, Sam Baio, who began “Socks for Change” a couple of years ago. Sam’s connections with clothing manufacturers allow him to source out quality, military grade socks, costing a mere $2 per pair. These would be perfect for our kits. And a new partnership was formed! St. John’s donated $500 to Socks for Change and we received 250 pairs of toasty, durable socks for our kits on January 23rd and 100 neck warmers in February.  

Socks for Change is sponsored by Pen Financial Credit Union and Wise Guys Charities. 50,000 pairs of socks and accessories have been distributed across the entire Niagara Peninsula in every community among sixty charities, Niagara Regional Police cars, all EMS vehicles, women’s centres, refugee and migrant worker centres, and in the schools of all four Niagara school boards!

The people of St. John’s hope that this is just the beginning of a long partnership with Socks for Change where we can maximize the usefulness of our Dignity Kits for those who use them, especially in the cold or damp months of our Canadian winters. 

Visit the Socks For Change website where their slogan “End Poverty Feet First” can be found!