British Columbia

'When in doubt, do the kind thing': Sock Granny wants you to donate your socks

76-year-old Barbara Vance is better known as the Sock Granny, and she wants you to give your old socks to the vulnerable this Christmas.

76-year-old Barbara Vance began collecting socks for the vulnerable 4 years ago

76-year-old Barbara Vance, known as the Sock Granny, has been collecting socks and other items for those in need for the past 4 years. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Barbara Vance, better known as the the "Sock Granny", wants people to go through their closets and donate socks they no longer need to those who do. 

"Give your socks this Christmas," said Vance.

The 76-year-old, who lives in a care home, began collecting socks for the city's most vulnerable four years ago after a chance encounter with her home's new neighbours. 

Someone from the MPA Society — a non-profit organization that supports people with mental illness — came to speak with the residents of her retirement home. 

The non-profit organization had just moved next door, and a representative was telling the seniors about their new neighbours, when Vance asked how she could help them. 

Vance said everyone in her family and her care home helps with her cause, including the cats — who she says give the final approval on how soft the socks are. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

She was told donating a pair of socks from her dresser would go along way. 

"A lot of seniors don't have a chance to get out much to do shopping, it is expensive and hard, it is cold ... but they have socks," she said. 

She offered to gather all the socks that were to be donated and then hand them off to the MPA Society. 

From there, the Sock Granny was born, and she began spreading her motto, "when in doubt, do the kind thing."

Vance said being called the 'Sock Granny' makes her feel wonderful because she loves being a grandmother. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

The first year, she collected 400 pairs. Last year, she collected 2,200 pairs of socks. This year she is trying to ramp that up to 4,000 pairs. 

Vance's daughter-in-law said many homeless people don't have a change of socks or shoes. Often, their feet get soaked and that can lead to infection and disease.

"If they take their socks and shoes off, they might go missing or whatever, so their feet never get a chance to dry out. So they stay in wet socks all the time," said Barbra Vance, who has the same name as her mother-in-law but spells it differently.

"If you've ever been out in the rain and have had your feet get wet and cold, imagine what it would be like to never have them dry," she said. 

In the first year Vance gathered 400 pairs of socks, this year she hopes to collect 4,000. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Since that first year, Vance has inspired sock drives around the globe, said her daughter-in-law.

"One of the most notable ones is a university in Singapore that reached out to her for guidance and held their own," she said. 

Vance has gotten the whole family involved. This year, they are collecting socks, underwear, toques, blankets and anything else that can help keep people warm. Additionally, they are taking donations of food and personal items. 

Donations can be dropped off at Vance's current care home, Little Mountain Place, at her previous home Terraces on 7th., Kokopelli Salon on Commercial Drive, Starbucks on Granville Island. The Starbucks locations on West 11th Avenue and Granville Street are also taking donations.

Vance is also collecting other items that will help people keep warm this winter. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)