A Bristol-based professional gift wrapper has launched the ‘Sock Project’ today.
Amanda White has taken in 451 brand new pairs of socks over the past few months, donated from anyone and everyone around the city.
She has been hard at work wrapping them up in preparation to hand them all out to the homeless for Christmas.
Amanda has a dream to spread a little Christmas joy to those who are struggling over the festive period, by using the wrapping skills she teaches through her business, Gift Frippery.
What inspired her to put the Sock Project into action was an encounter with a homeless man during December last year.
“I was Christmas shopping in the centre of Bristol… and I walked past somebody who was homeless… he was making his bed on the pavement, it pulled at my heart strings,” she said.
“Suddenly everybody was looking up at the sky, and it’s what should have been a magical moment, it was beginning to snow… but I just kept thinking about that chap who was making his bed and that he was going to be sleeping in sub-zero temperatures”.
Intensely moved by what she saw that day, Amanda was determined to do something significant to make even the smallest of changes to homeless people’s lives.
“When was the last time they would have actually got a gift that was wrapped? I can’t change their lives but maybe I can bring them a little bit of joy for two minutes,” she said.
The sock gifts are more than what initially meets the eye, as they also contain a handful of other hidden surprises from those who have donated.
“A lot of the socks have hand-written messages in from people, and chocolate coins”.
“Some of the messages are wonderful, some just say, ‘Merry Christmas’ and they’ve got little pictures of holly and things that people have drawn,” she said.
But, of all the things that could have been chosen, why socks? Amanda explains how they were the ideal choice of present for the project.
“Socks are a good thing because you can buy them in Primark, we have some swanky ones from John Lewis, we have knee length ones, we have thermal ones… they come from everywhere. Even if you’ve only got a pound to spare you can still join in and be generous”.
With only one day and two women to hand out all the socks, Amanda was certain there would be left overs. The rest are set to be donated to Caring in Bristol, a charity which supports homeless people in the city.
The charity largely focuses on finding new and different ways of offering extra support during the winter months.
🖐Let’s support people in Bristol out of homelessness together this Winter.
— Caring in Bristol (@caringinbristol) December 29, 2018
Antonia Cross, Fundraising and Communications Coordinator at Caring in Bristol, supports Amanda’s scheme.
“Anyone who shows compassion for people who are in crisis are incredible, anyone who is acting is perfect,” she said.
The socks that Caring in Bristol receive will become a part of their Caring at Christmas programme, which takes place from December 24 until January 1.
“Anything donated will go to the walk in which sees 150 people a day, and will be distributed to anyone who comes into our service”.
Caring in Bristol give out survival handbooks to the homeless, which give advice on how to get the appropriate help they need. Antonia suggests that these may have been a suitable addition to give out on the day.
“Survival handbooks might have a direct impact also – it’s a great book to hand out to people. It’s important to make yourself aware, so you can give advice as well as socks”.
Homelessness is a significant issue, Antonia explains how this is due to a multitude of reasons.
“Bristol is a big city and it’s extremely difficult for people to get housing here. People become homeless due to loss of private tenancy, being evicted from prison and family issues”.
“Support services are losing funding left right and center… people need to donate to charities to allow these services to carry on running,” she said.
Homelessness has always been a huge problem in Bristol and the UK. A 2017 Shelter report revealed that there was an estimated 2,674 homeless people in the city. So, the need for further support is clear.
On the morning of the event, Amanda and her friend Ruth took their cases full of socks and embarked on their Christmas mission.
Their route started from 10am at the top of Whiteladies road, then down Park Street towards the city centre.
The big day had come at last, and Amanda wasn’t sure what to expect.
“I hope that everybody who ends up with socks receives them in the right spirits,” she said.
Ruth, Amanda’s friend who is helping with the project, also feels positive about the day.
“Sadly, there’s lots of homeless people around in Bristol. Hopefully but not hopefully we’ll see some people who will gratefully receive some of our socks that we’ve wrapped for them,” Ruth said.
To start the day off, Amanda and Ruth handed out a few parcels along Whiteladies road, with Matt being particularly thankful to receive his socks.
“I think the gifts are being well received, some people are chattier than others,” Amanda said.
“It’s nice to have the time to stop and talk, instead of just wandering past like you normally do”.
These encounters left Amanda with high hopes, but will she be doing it again? She suggests that it’s a possibility.
A return of the Sock Project seems to be on the cards, so Amanda may be spreading a little bit of Christmas joy for longer than we think.