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BELLOWS FALLS — OK, no jokes about teenagers and their socks.

This is a different story about socks and teenagers, a kind and caring story.

The Bellows Falls Middle School Student Council recently collected more than 150 pairs of new and good, used socks for Our Place, the local drop-in center for the needy.

And the socks couldn’t have come at a better time.

Socks are a hot commodity and a key defense against frostbite for those living outside, or spending most of their time outdoors.

The Student Council collected the socks by putting out donation boxes in different locations around the middle school, and the boxes quickly filled up.

There were all kinds and colors of socks. They were all clean, and the ones that weren’t new, were clean and neatly turned to make a ball.

The students are already thinking about what they will next collect this winter — maybe gloves, hats and mittens.

Abby Nystrom of the Student Council said the students were able to collect all the socks in about a month. They collected white cotton athletic socks, small anklet socks, and even some nice wool socks.

She came to Our Place with a small group of members of the 7th and 8th grade Student Council, who had worked on the project.

David Billings, executive director of Our Place, said the donation of the socks was more than welcome.

“We now have a supply of all kinds of winter things here,” said Billings, who said people often don’t have the money to even buy a second-hand coat or boots. He estimated that 100 families a month come to the drop-in center seeking not just lunch, but help with basics like clothing.

Some are people who live in the community, he said, and some are transients.

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The students were helped by their seventh grade social studies teacher, Christopher Kelley, who is also the advisor for the Student Council.

Student Zander Johnson said the students kept putting out more and more boxes to collect the socks in different locations around the school. He said the students were trying to also to come back and volunteer at the center.

Billings said many of the people who come to Our Place seeking help are unhoused, and want blankets. “They need blankets to stay warm, when the power goes out,” said Billings, noting blankets were probably too big a project for the students.

“Socks are great,” said Billings.

He also made an appeal for volunteers to work at Our Place. “We’re really short of volunteers,” he said.

Our Place, which is located on The Island, is back serving meals in person, although its meals primarily are served as takeaway because of COVID-19 concerns.

One worker at Our Place, Maryellen Charnovesky, who helps people who come into the center, said the socks will have an immediate impact. There is tremendous need in the community, she said.

Charnovesky said she had recently helped a young man, who she suspected of sleeping in one of the vacant rail cars nearby. He came in from the snow and cold, and he was wearing wet sneakers with no laces. His socks were soaking wet.

“‘Can you feel your feet,’ I asked him,” said Charnovesky, who described her job as “Jill of all trades” at Our Place.

The man’s feet were not frostbitten yet, she recalled, adding, “They were very pink.”

She got him some socks. “And I found him a really nice pair of men’s boots,” she recalled after the students had gone back to class.

“He had tears in his eyes,” she said.

But, she said, “I could not find him a pair of gloves.”

Contact Susan Smallheer at


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