Catholic school students soothe the feet of Toronto’s homeless

April 13, 2023   ·   0 Comments

By JAMES MATTHEWS, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Do you have any luxuries you don’t realize you take for granted?

You bet your socks you do.

Anna Mancini’s Grade 12 religion class spearheaded an effort by the school to collect black socks for Toronto’s homeless population. It was part of a project undertaken during Lent, a means of giving back to the community.

The annual collection has taken place for about 25 years at Robert F. Hall Catholic Secondary School, except for the outset of the coronavirus outbreak and the subsequent lockdown.

The collection this year was done from Mar. 6 until Apr. 6 during homeroom classes when her students challenged others to bring in as many pairs of socks as possible.

The school ended up donating 6,200 pairs of black socks to Good Shepherd Ministries.

“I told my students on the first day of the semester that it was important for them to make their mark in the school before they graduated,” Mancini said.

Their teacher asked the students what they thought they’d remember about their high school years. And she asked them what they thought other students would remember about them after graduation.

“Your answer should be beyond online learning, cramming for tests and exams, and being part of several interruptions including strikes,” she told her students.

The sock drive was an initiative to help them make their mark while helping others.

The homeroom classes were matched against rival homerooms to playfully motivate each other toward the cause. The winning homeroom class that collected the most socks per capita was awarded a specially designed Robert F. Hall swag T-shirt.

A Grade 9 math class earned the top honour by way of 1,973 pairs of socks.

So why collect socks specifically?

“Socks are actually a necessity that we take for granted,” Mancini said. “We are blessed to have so many pairs of socks and never think of the need for socks for those who live on the streets of Toronto.”

The Good Shepherd Ministry recommended donating new pairs of black socks because of dignity issues.

“Sadly, people living on the streets don’t have the ability to launder clothes,” she said. “Darker materials show less wear, less discoloration and fewer stains, which allows for longer use.

“A homeless person may go months without changing his or her socks. The homeless are also constantly on their feet, moving from one shelter to another.”

Mancini said the haul will be delivered to Good Shepherd Ministries in May.

“I believe seeing all the 6,200 pairs of socks gathered in piles was astonishing for each of my students,” she said. “Some were giggling because words could not describe what they were seeing.

“They were in absolute disbelief that the school was so incredibly generous and they had a part in making this all happen.”

Mancini, who is the head of the Religious Education Department at the school, said opportunities like the sock drive show students that kindness and generosity grow through sharing with others.

“The act of giving brings on so much joy and it allows us to appreciate what we have,” she said. “It provides an opportunity to look beyond ourselves and our challenges to see what others are facing. This helps students grow and become active members of society.”

In the end, students were able to make a worthwhile contribution to the world. And that’s quite the memory to take from their high school experience.

“I am so incredibly proud of each of my students,” Mancini said. “Not only for their generosity towards contributing to the sock drive and for their efforts in motivating an entire school community, but more importantly for making their mark.

“I am hoping they will look back on their high school years and remember this event and how they were part of it and made a difference in the Hall community.”

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