Toolbox Project, Socks for Change and Brock University team up


Brock is gearing up to support the Toolbox Project, an initiative to provide care packages for men in need.

Run by Brock alumnus James Symons, the project compiles care items into boxes that are then distributed to men in the community experiencing poverty.

Brock’s drive for toolbox products has included partnering with Socks for Change, an initiative in the community to provide warm and dry winter gear for those who need it.

For every two dollars in monetary donations, Socks for Change will provide one pair of high-quality wool socks for the boxes.

According to Symons, Brock’s involvement began largely with a donation organized by Kristen Smith, the Manager of Student & Community Outreach with Student Life and Community Engagement, who provided four boxes last year.

The Toolbox Project itself arose when Symons noticed a gap in support for men experiencing homelessness and poverty. A regular volunteer in the community, Symons was familiar with several care package programs designed for women, but none that addressed the needs of men in the community.

“[This is] an initiative that started last November,” said Symons. “Last November there were several drives for women experiencing poverty, but there was nothing happening for men.”

When Symons had the idea for the Toolbox Project, he went online to gauge interest amongst the people in his life. The response was strong support from friends, family and other community members.

In its inaugural year, Symons aimed for the Toolbox Project to distribute 25 boxes. With extensive community support, the initiative created 360 boxes for men in need. This year, Symons has set a goal of 500 boxes.

“There’s been a great response so far. The mayor has been behind us. Pen Financial did a huge drive,” said Symons. “Brock doing a campaign will help. Having support from different agencies, different groups and different people is really cool. [The project] is really starting to grow.”

At Brock, there will be drop-off locations for care items such as toothbrushes, deodorant, shaving cream, razors, denture adhesive cream, travel-size toiletries and gift cards for groceries or to locations such as Tim Hortons. Additionally, small gifts like books are encouraged. Individuals can also donate to Socks for Change to support the initiative, looking for collection containers shaped like mannequin legs across campus.

The Toolbox Project will be hosting a fundraiser at St. Louis Bar & Grill in St. Catharines Nov. 17 from 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Attendees who bring a donation will receive a half-pound of wings for free. Additionally, there will be a raffle table set up during the evening with all proceeds going to the Toolbox Project. Overall, 10 per cent of sales will go to the initiative.

Symons is already brainstorming ideas for further programs to better support those in the Niagara region experiencing poverty and homelessness. One such idea is to provide free makeovers for individuals experiencing homelessness in the spring to help with job hunting.

“This community has been amazing,” said Symons. “I’m sure if I come up with a new idea they’ll be behind it.”

However, Symons acknowledges the Toolbox project and other similar initiatives are not solutions to the high levels of homelessness and poverty in the region. They provide care and support, but the issue runs far deeper, according to Symons.

“This is a Band-Aid,” said Symons. “People need housing, jobs and access to mental health care.”

While it cannot solve systemic issues, the Toolbox Project is a growing program that continues to provide vulnerable community members with support. The contribution of each community member, group and agency has a tangible impact on men in the region.

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