Nobody likes cold feet, especially not Mike Forster.
That’s why he has dedicated the little free time he has to keep the cold off the homeless population in Penticton.
“I’m a diabetic so my feet are always cold. I can just imagine how these people feel,” said Forster, a nursing student at Sprott Shaw College. While working through the mental health unit of the nursing course, the cold feet connection sparked an idea for Forster. In three days his online fundraiser (gofundme.com/keeppenwarm) has raised $596 of its $1,000 goal through 10 donors
“It comes to simple things. I heard somebody say (homeless people) struggle with the small things. The hats, the gloves even socks, warm dry socks,” Forster said. “That really stuck in my head.”
The former businessman who decided he was going to leave his old career behind in the hopes of helping others said he hadn’t thought of himself as mental health advocate before taking the nursing course.
“It introduced me to the homeless population, addiction and things like that. The struggles that these people go through,” Forster said. “It kept echoing in my brain that I need to do something.”
Things started off slowly for the online fundraiser, but to Forster’s surprise they picked up quickly in just a matter of days.
“It’s kind of snowballed. I didn’t really expect it to get so much awareness and it’s great,” Forster said.
The money raised goes towards care packages with two pairs of socks, a toque and some gloves among some hygiene products. He said the operation can continue to expand as long as the donations continue to come.
“If it possibly gets bigger I could bulk buy hoodies for five, six bucks. Good, thick hoodies. So it’s just a matter of raising the funds to grab the stuff,” Forster said.
Once the packages are put together with the help of some of his friends and fellow nursing students, Forster will be visiting soup kitchens and areas like downtown Penticton to get the items where they are needed. He is also accepting donations of useful products alongside financial donations.
He’s hoping to fill the gaps with smaller items that aren’t generally thought of when donating to the homeless like notepads and pens.
“It’s something that they use a lot, that they go through. You might not think it, but that was another thing somebody had said they seem to need,” Forster.
Forster has been in touch with other likeminded efforts in Penticton, including God’s Kitchen, who among other acts of kindness put on a breakfast gathering at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian church on Tuesday’s from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Since he has started the project, he’s found out about more supports in the city.
“As I did this I started getting all these messages from different people who are doing it, like God’s kitchen, I didn’t know that was out there,” Forster said. “They have been wanted to combine efforts and try to work together which is great.”
Forster added that he is more than willing to collaborate with any and every organization interested.
While Forster’s project is new, there can never be too much charity. The Cover With Kindness blanket drive is returning for its sixth year in a row, and is looking for blankets, sleeping bags, toques, scarves, gloves/mittens and winter coats. The items can be new or gently used and will go towards those in need.
The items will be handed out to clientele at the Soupateria and those in need at the Parish Hall in St. Saviour’s Church next to the soup kitchen. The items will be handed out from Dec. 15-17 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Donations can be dropped off at 699 Main St. or can be picked up from a home or office. The Kitchen Soupateria Society will arrange to the have the items cleaned if need be and delivered to the Parish hall. Call 250-770-8888 for more info.