'I can walk home confidently': West Island charity distributes free winter boots to the needy

On Rock, a West Island charity has been distributing winter boots to those in need for four years.

Newcomers unprepared for Montreal winters struggle to afford winter boots

Sileola Akinjagunla says she's 'so happy' to have received her very first pair of waterproof winter boots. (CBC)

On a slushy November day, Sileola Akinjagunla arrived at the On Rock community centre wearing moccasins.

"It's not waterproof. I have to walk carefully," she said.

Akinjagunla came to the Pierrefonds community organization and food bank for their annual winter boot distribution.

"I come here and I got good boots and I can walk home confidently," said Akinjagunla, who uses a cane.
Sileola Akinjagunla went to On Rock for a pair of brand new winter boots. She says she can now walk around 'confidently.' (CBC)

On Rock has been distributing free winter boots to the needy for four years. This year, they're giving away 100 pairs of adult-size boots and about 40 pairs for children.

The charity receives some of its funding from West Island Community Shares. CBC is supporting the charity for its annual "Light Up Our Community" holiday fundraiser, which runs until Dec. 10.

Kim Reid, the president of On Rock, says winter boots are expensive for families.

"It's hard if you got a family of five or six … to put everybody into boots in the winter," he said.

Reid says many of the people who have come for the winter boots are refugees who are not used to the snow and freezing temperatures.

See On Rock's winter boots distribution in action 

On Rock started handing out boots at 2 p.m., but lines began to form at noon. Reid says that by 12:15 p.m., there were 20 people lined up outside.

There were not enough boots to go around, and On Rock limited each family to two sets of boots.

He said that if somebody came wearing nice winter boots, they'd be turned away.

"The hardest part is dealing with people who want but don't need and unfortunately those people are there," said Reid.

Kim Reid is the founder and president of On Rock Community Services. (Craig Desson/CBC)

Reid believes poverty is increasing in the West Island because of people in their 50s losing their jobs and an influx of refugees. He says that when they started distributing food in 2005, they were helping 35 families.

Now they're helping 225.

"We know our families, we see them every week. Seeing them walk out of the door with a huge smile on their face, and thanking us — those are the things that keep us going."

Over the next few weeks CBC Montreal is holding several events, including its annual Sing-In, to raise money for West Island Community Shares. The goal for this year is $1.3 million. Find out more here.


Craig Desson


Craig Desson is a producer and journalist at CBC Montreal. He was born in Montreal and has lived in Ottawa, Toronto, Germany and Sierra Leone.