Rotary Canada campaigns to ensure dignity for the poor The local club has collected more than 1,200 new pairs of socks and underwear for four organisations through its Dignity Drive campaign.

Outgoing club president Janice Chomik (far left) and incoming president Sandra Impey (far right) stand with Jared Gossen (Saint Lawrence Centre); Melissa Byers (HIV North); Caroline Sorge (Rotary House); and Maureen Laboucan (third from right) and Natascha Okimaw (Grande Prairie Friendship Centre) during the Dignity Drive campaign.
Outgoing club president Janice Chomik (far left) and incoming president Sandra Impey (far right) stand with Jared Gossen (Saint Lawrence Centre); Melissa Byers (HIV North); Caroline Sorge (Rotary House); and Maureen Laboucan (third from right) and Natascha Okimaw (Grande Prairie Friendship Centre) during the Dignity Drive campaign. photo: Svjetlana Mlinarevic

Rotary Club has collected more than 1,200 new pairs of socks and underwear for four organisations through its Dignity Drive campaign.

Socks and underwear are items of clothing most people think very little of and take very much for granted. But for those who are homeless or who have a high-risk lifestyle on the streets, these two items of clothing are critical.

Acknowledging this need, Sunrise Rotary Club (Canada, District 5810) has stepped forward and collected more than 1,200 new pairs of socks and underwear for four organisations through its Dignity Drive campaign.

“There was a CBC show that I listened to called Got Ginch out of Vancouver and they talked about the importance of having clean underwear that would bring confidence and dignity to people when they’re going to job interviews or interviews about whether or not they’d qualify for housing.”

“So, it gives the homeless or disenfranchised more dignity and thus more confidence when they’re going into these meetings or interviews,” said Sandra Impey, incoming club president.

HIV North, the Grande Prairie Friendship Centre, the Saint Lawrence Centre, and Rotary House received the items on Tuesday and all acknowledged the generosity of the donation.

Saint Lawrence Centre project lead Jared Gossen echoed all the organisations’ leadership when he said the donation was a gift that was sorely needed and much appreciated.

“I think everyone understands the importance of feeling refreshed and confident and obviously clean socks and underwear help with that.”

At the Saint Lawrence Centre, it’s a daily struggle just to (instil into) the people who come and visit a sense of self-worth and dignity.

“To partner with the club in this way, where it would be supplied in a tangible way, it’s really exciting. It’s going to make a lot of people’s day to ask for something and for me to say, ‘Yeah, we have it today,’ and that’s cool.”

The centre hands out 20 pairs of socks and about six pairs of underwear a day.

HIV North executive director Melissa Byers noted the difficulty female clients have in acquiring clean socks and underwear.

“The women are on the streets, they don’t have underwear, they might be on their cycle and that’s just a reality that they live. This helps out in so many ways,” she said.

HIV North never gets male underwear donated making Rotary’s donation all that much more appreciated.

Rotary House executive director Caroline Sorge also touched on the topic of health as many of her clients have illnesses such as diabetes, which makes having dry, clean socks critical.

“The need for socks and underwear is constantly ongoing. I think people don’t realise that when you’re living on the street dry socks in particular are really important.”

“A lot of our clients have diabetes so clean, dry socks is really, really important for them,” she said.

Grande Prairie Friendship Centre goes through 1,200 pairs of socks, underwear, and toiletries a year and there never seems to be enough.

Natascha Okimaw, cultural navigator at the Friendship Centre, said the need for these items falls second to the food they need for their soup kitchen.

“That part of our programme is totally based on community donations, we don’t have actual funds to purchase underwear and socks to keep on hand. It is a need.”

“Every day we give out socks and underwear. We have a lot of clients that come in and some of them have incontinence issues and others they’re out all day and they need dry socks to put on,” she said.

Sunrise Rotary will continue to collect socks and underwear for their clients twice a year in perpetuity.

“We’re hoping that this will become our signature project,” said Impey. 

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