MONTREAL -- It sounds like the simplest thing in the world—getting socks for Christmas.

But for volunteers heading to St. Michael’s Mission this week, that simple thing took on mammoth proportions, in a few ways.

“That first year, I drove down here with 464 pairs,” said Barry Christensen of the volunteer group, which is called Sock It To Me.

“Six years later we’re standing in front of 25,776 pairs of socks,” he said. “It’s just… beyond words.”

The organization has learned more about the importance of its gifts over the years. For people living on the street, a dry pair of socks can make an immeasurable difference.

And this year, its delivery was bigger than ever before, and its health significance greater than ever.

“Socks is a very important thing when you’re homeless,” said Benoit McCann, the cook at St. Michael’s Mission, which is located on St. Urbain St. at the UQAM campus.

McCann was once a client of the mission when he was himself living on the street. At the time, he said, he could easily go through three to four pairs of socks per day.

“When you’re outside all day long, you’re walking all day long, so [if] you don’t have dry shoes, dry feet?” he said. “You’re going to get sick really fast and really often.”

Many people experiencing homelessness don’t have access to free laundry, so a pair of socks is often only worn once. Tens of thousands of pairs donated at once is a game-changer, McCann said.

“You have no idea how happy they’re going to be to get those clothes,” he said.

To the mission’s director, Chantal Laferriere, the delivery was “unbelievable… just overwhelming,” she said.

“I presume that this will definitely last us throughout the winter, spring, summer—at least a good year.”

Sock It To Me is already busy planning next year’s drive and says that after 2020, there's nowhere to go but up. 

“We’re finishing this year with a vaccine, we’re finishing this year with an amazing donation,” said Christensen. “2021 is going to be even better.”