Kramberger: West Islander's sock drive and Lakeshore gift-wrappers return

Sock It to Me’s ninth annual campaign will help vulnerable Montrealers, while Lakeshore General Hospital Foundation gift-wrapping volunteers are back at Fairview Pointe-Claire for the first time since 2017.

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A couple of worthwhile initiatives are returning to inspire West Islanders to give back: there’s a sock drive spearheaded by Pointe-Claire resident Barry Christensen to help unhoused people, and the Lakeshore General Hospital Foundation’s gift-wrapping fundraiser is coming back to Fairview Pointe-Claire shopping centre.

Christensen, under the auspices of Stepping Up, is hosting the ninth annual Sock It to Me campaign this month for St. Michael’s Mission, an organization that supports vulnerable citizens in Montreal. He launched the sock appeal in 2015 after working as a daytime paramedic stationed in the Berri-UQAM métro, where he took note of various outreach efforts to meet some basic needs of unhoused people.

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“When you get wet feet, whether summer or winter, you can end up with infections and all kinds of foot issues. The need is all year. Wool socks will keep longer, but cotton socks are more of a liner, or disposable because there’s not the means to clean them on a regular basis,” Christensen said.

Offering a pair of new socks, along with perhaps a snack bar, is an approach often used by outreach workers when meeting an unhoused person on the streets, he added.

Since its inception, the campaign has collected more than 50,000 pairs of new socks and truckloads of both new and gently used clothing such as coats, hats and gloves. In the first year, 465 pairs were collected.

Unexpectedly, the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 proved to be a banner year for Stepping Up, as almost 25,000 pairs were donated, Christensen said. He suggested the spike was because of people spending even more time on their smartphones or laptops and eager to have something to do. Last fall, about 6,000 pairs were donated and later delivered to St. Michael’s Mission.

“It’s really heartwarming to see all the different people that step up and help,” Christensen said. “I really believe this makes a difference.”

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St. Michael’s Mission relocated to its current building on Stanley St. this year. It’s struggling to recoup expenses and could use some private financial backing, Christensen said.

Christensen, who retired from Urgences-santé last December, keeps busy with community initiatives aside from his sock drives. He sits on the board of Placement Potentiel, which provides employment opportunities to qualified candidates with disabilities, and he founded the Pointe-Claire Citizens Association, a non-partisan entity marking its first anniversary that recently hosted a food drive to benefit the West Island Mission food bank.

Drop-off locations for the sock drive include the Gilbert and Daughter clothing store (49 Donegani Ave., Pointe-Claire) and Terrafolia Flowers (3375 Sources Blvd., Dollard-des-Ormeaux), and there is a bin allocated in the Côte-St-Luc municipal arena.

Christensen is looking for other merchants or companies willing to support the cause, as well as any schools that might want to organize sock drives. Cash donations are also used to purchase socks at the end of the campaign, he said.

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Stepping Up is supported by the Nellie Philanthropy Foundation, which can issue charitable tax receipts if requested, he said.

For more information about Stepping Up and its sock drive, visit or email [email protected].

Meanwhile, Lakeshore General Hospital Foundation (LGHF) volunteers will be back gift-wrapping near the food court at Fairview from Dec. 1 to 24, returning to the West Island retail hub after a hiatus of several years.

The foundation’s volunteers had wrapped Christmas presents at Fairview from 1996 to 2017, raising around $26,000 per year to support the Pointe-Claire hospital. But that tradition came to a halt in 2018 when Cadillac Fairview Corp. announced it would run its own gift-wrapping services at its 19 malls with a portion of fees collected nationally being donated that year to a selected charity of its choice.

The Fairview mall’s new management approached the foundation, which jumped on the opportunity to restart its gift-wrapping fundraiser this year, said Nathalie Kamel, who was appointed as the LGHF’s managing director about two years ago.

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“We’re really excited about it. We’re hoping we have a really good turnout,” she said.

“It’s more than just raising money, which is important for sure. It’s also the engagement of the volunteers and having interaction with the community. It also gives us the opportunity to talk about the hospital and some of the initiatives we’re doing this year.”

While the foundation hopes to raise close to $30,000, shopping patterns have changed in the past five years, with online purchasing increasing since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Kamel noted.

The LGHF raises around $2 million annually to purchase equipment and support programs at the hospital.

Volunteers are coming forward, with about 85 per cent of time slots for gift-wrapping already filled. The LGHF has an online sign-up sheet with openings listed.

For more information, contact the LGHF at 514-630-2081 or [email protected].

[email protected]

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