JOYFUL Socks donations are coming in at Leslie Cassidy-Amadio’s home. Photo courtesy Cassidy-Amadio

Giving the gift of clean socks, hygiene

  • November 20, 2020

A clean pair of socks and a tube of toothpaste are simple necessities many take for granted but for those living on the street, they can be a luxury.

Leslie Cassidy-Amadio is helping to meet the needs of those who can’t access these products this holiday season through her JOYFUL Socks donation drive. Each year Cassidy-Amadio and her team of volunteers collect thermal socks and hygiene products and make sure they get into the hands of the homeless in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

A decade ago, at a Catholic Women’s League meeting, Cassidy-Amadio learned from a speaker visiting from a local soup kitchen that the items were among the most requested for the homeless, yet among the least donated. Immediately she made it her mission to do something, but it was what transpired on the way home from that event that set the JOYFUL Socks campaign into motion.

“It wasn’t just me driving home that night, it was the good Lord driving with me,” said Cassidy-Amadio, long-time trustee with the Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board. “I thought if I could just go out and get a pair of socks and fill it with grooming products, maybe my friends would like to do it as well. I put a notice to everyone in my contacts, e-mail and to a couple other associates and it just took off.”

Through the support of all the schools in the Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board, a couple public schools, local businesses, friends and family, Cassidy-Amadio is able to collect thousands of socks annually. Now 10 years in operation, the Christmas sock drive has donated more than 20,000 pairs of socks to the needy, growing from 400 socks in that first year to a record 4,000-plus pairs in 2019.

“When people donate and try to help those that are in need, they think of food and clothing so the last thing you would think about would be socks,” said Cassidy-Amadio. “We take for granted that we can go to the store when we run out of toothpaste and grab a tube or a toothbrush, soap or shampoo. If it’s between paying the rent or the heating bill, the things that will go by the wayside are simple grooming products that can be expensive.”

This time of year, Cassidy-Amadio’s home turns into a workshop of sorts, with her and close friends and family whom she playfully calls her “elves” working hard to package the items that in late November are hand delivered to local shelters and community organizations.

JOYFUL Socks is now working with more than 20 different charitable organizations in the region, including the Children’s Aid Society and women in crisis organizations. After receiving lists of the specific needs and quantities from each charitable group, the JOYFUL Socks team puts the packages together and whatever is left over is donated to a local soup kitchen to be distributed to clients at an annual Christmas dinner.

Despite COVID-19 Cassidy-Amadio continues to receive donated items and has seen more people opting to make financial donations which go to the purchase of socks and hygiene products. It’s an anticipated annual tradition among her family and friends, but operations this year will look a little different, with restrictions in place as to the number of people allowed in the home at one time. But the team is undeterred.

“I’ll just crack the whip with my husband and daughter,” joked Cassidy-Amadio, a mother of six adult children. “I won’t be able to have (all my friends) in the home at the exact same time, so I’ll have maybe two or three at a time (socially distanced). That might slow things down a bit in the packaging, but we’ll get through it, God willing.”

A well-oiled machine at this point, as items come into the home, they are organized into groups and banana boxes are used for packaging. Cassidy-Amadio jokes that her husband David Amadio “couldn’t hide from JOYFUL,” and has been helping to pick up donations and deliver packages to local organizations.

“We spend lots of good time together doing it and after we deliver all the packages we get together for lunch and everything,” he said.

“We’ve truly made it a social event for us so it’s very satisfying and fulfilling.”

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