Keeping the homeless frostbite free

By  Daniele Muscolino, YSN
  • December 18, 2006
SUDBURY, Ont. - Waxy, bumpy and discoloured fingers and toes were enough to spring the young people of St. Kevin's parish in the diocese of Sault Ste. Marie here into action. Frostbite becomes a serious issue in the Greater Sudbury area, especially for the homeless, where winters can see temperatures remain around -30C with wind chill.

This prompted St. Kevin's youth to give a presentation to their parish during a Sunday Mass in mid-November about homelessness. The youth gave startling facts about homelessness in the community and showed pictures of the severity of frostbite.

Within a week of the presentation the youth began a campaign named "Mission Possible." Challenges were sent out to the local Bishop Alexander Carter Secondary School in Val Therese, on the outskirts of Sudbury, to bring in 800 pairs of socks for the homeless.

"Most people bring in clothes all the time to the shelters and forget about socks," said Matt Devost, 16. "Our main concern was frostbite and so we focused on socks."

The campaign ran for a short two weeks yet brought in more than 2,000 pairs of socks. 

The students at Bishop Alexander Carter turned the challenge from the parish into a challenge of their own.

"Each homeroom was challenged to bring in 40 pairs of socks, or money to purchase socks," said Robert Pappin, the school's chaplain.

Some local businesses also jumped on board to help the campaign.

"We beat our goal in the very first week of the campaign," said Joanne Boutros, 15. "We were very surprised and excited." 

During the presentation St. Kevin's Youth, known as the "SKY Team," also played music and a video, and included a skit staged by the young people in which a homeless person sat on the steps of the sanctuary while parishioners walked by and ignored him.

"A lot of people were in tears (after the presentation) and were eager to run out and buy pairs of socks," said Devost.

The idea was inspired by Devost's mother, Ann-Marie, who participated in a homelessness rally in the summer. The youth co-ordinator at St. Kevin's said she proposed the idea to the SKY Team and the group was quick to respond.

"Youth are really great. We gave them a mission and they ran with it," Ann-Marie Devost said. 

The socks were delivered Dec. 3 to the Corner Clinic, a non-profit organization in downtown Sudbury that distributes clothes to the needy.

"I'm really, really touched by the efforts of these young people," said Mike Marcotte, an intake worker at the Corner Clinic. "This is the most (number of socks) I've ever seen brought in here."

For the SKY Team, the project meant more than helping the homeless.

"It was important for us to organize this project," said Boutros. "Usually we just stand around while the adults do everything — now we're doing something, and they have to help us." 

Boutros believes the young people have gained a little more respect in the parish.

"People are looking up to us now," she said. "We made a lot of them cry."

Now that the SKY Team has helped clothe the homeless, the next campaign, already underway, is to feed them. The team is collecting non-perishable goods to deliver to the needy just in time for Christmas.

(Muscolino, 22, studies communications at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ont.)

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