519Pursuit campaign collecting thousands of socks for London’s homeless

Amber Irvine and Allison DeBlaire hold some of the more than 12,000 socks their campaign has collected to far for London's homeless. Liny Lamberink/980 CFPL

When Allison DeBlaire brought a freshly-made pot of chicken noodle soup to share with people behind the Men’s Mission on York Street, she didn’t expect the experience to kick-start an organization aimed at clothing London’s homeless.

But that’s exactly what happened.

“The first gentlemen who took a bite of the soup made an announcement that there was a real chicken in the soup, and they kind of came running. At that point, I knew every single day I had to do better for someone else,” DeBlaire said.

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She and Amber Irvine are the co-founders of 519Pursuit, an initiative that grew out of DeBlaire’s act of kindness on Nov. 8, 2017. For a little more than a year now, they’ve been gathering unwanted clothes, delivering care packages, and being friends to those living on the street on a weekly and sometimes daily basis.

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Most recently, they’ve been urging people to donate clean pairs of socks in a campaign dubbed The 519 Pledge.

The founders of 519Pursuit have already collected more than 12,000 socks for London’s homeless. Amber Irvine/Submitted

“Socks are very important to people who are found out in the streets, especially with our winters in London. We have a lot of high-low temperatures, and we get slushy season. When you don’t change your socks for a long time, it can start to have a lot of medical effects.”

DeBlaire has seen some of those complications first-hand.

“I can tell in the way that they walk,” she explained. “Around January it starts to slow down, they’re dragging their feet a little more because they’re so irritated from the damp socks.”

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DeBlaire and Irvine set a lofty goal of getting 519 pledges of 519 socks each. The campaign was supposed to wrap up in early December, with a final count scheduled Wednesday. But after gathering more than 12,000 pairs of socks, DeBlaire says donations — and new commitments to the pledge — keep coming.

“In our email and our [social media] inboxes, messages keep coming saying, ‘Hey, we have all these socks we want to donate to you,’ and we had no idea that it was happening at these businesses and organizations,” she said.

519Pursuit is working to get non-profit status, and is a part of Innovation Works’ Incubator Program.

Energized by the success of The 519 Pledge, DeBlaire said she and Irvine recently held their first meeting with volunteers and people interested in helping out, and are planning to do more for London’s homeless with a growing outreach team.

“If we all start doing small things, big things happen,” she said.

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