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Saskatoon seniors send warm thoughts and gifts to the North

A group of Saskatoon seniors is giving the gift of warm toques and socks to the hamlet of Kimmirut this winter.

Bob Rutherford, 92, started Socks by Bob in 2010 initially making just socks and has since started making toques as well as neck warmers.

Putting together a volunteer crew of his friends they started out by donating what they made to the homeless community in Saskatoon.

The toques, neck-warmers and socks that recently arrived at the Kimmirut health centre.
photo courtesy of Anke Krug-MacLean.

Bob does the knitting on his machine, and Bob's friends help out with a number of other tasks such as sewing and cutting the toques and socks.

They then started making socks, neck-warmers and toques for other communities in need around Saskatchewan and Alberta.

"Most of the donations down south will go towards homeless shelters, a friendship centre or the Hope Mission in Alberta, there's one or two more charities that just hand them out," said Scott Rutherford, Bob's son.

A business near Carstairs, Alberta (between Calgary and Red Deer), Custom Woolen Mills Ltd, helps supply Bob's supply of wool.

Their GoFundMe page Socks by Bob Making for Homeless goes toward the supply of wool they use.

More recently they sent a number of toques and neckwarmers to Kimmirut and plan to send more in the near future.

"We've sent up around 100 toques and we'll probably send up some more when we get some more made," said Scott.

"I didn't expect hats to be honest, I didn't expect neckwarmers either, I was hoping just for socks and they sent me these hats which are double-lined, they are not cheaply made, these are well-made toques," said Anke Krug-MacLean, the supervisor of health program's at the Kimmirut health centre.

Bob has set up some tube machines he's built himself for his project and over time he has acquired some older machines to help produce more toques and socks for people.

"He's built some tube machines and he's also retrofitted some antique toque machines, so his living room looks more like a manufacturing place."

Krug-MacLean at the Kimmirut health centre reached out to Socks by Bob and they were more than happy to help out.

"In all honesty I wasn't sure, I thought it was a shot in the dark to be honest," said Krug-MacLean.

"It was a long time ago, I came across this gentleman who built his own sock machine after his wife passed away, I came across it again and I found out he makes socks and donates to people that need them," she added.

"This is the first time he ever sent something to Nunavut so this is kind of exciting for us," said Scott, "He thought it was kind of neat and dad was excited to send toques and socks to another part of Canada."

'Dad wanted to keep people warm'

Scott also adds that this project is as much for Bob himself as it is for the people he is helping.

"That's what he has been doing since his wife and my mom passed away, it's one of the things that kept him really busy," explained Scott, "the whole premise was that dad wanted to keep people warm, he also needed something to do.

"When he started it was to keep him and four other people busy, when you're a senior it can get pretty lonely, because your friends are passing away, your spouse has passed away and this was one way he can keep busy."

For now the donations to Kimmirut are a one-off, however Scott adds they are more than willing to help out if there's another community that could use the help.

"If there's another community that might need some, we can't supply a lot to everybody but if there's a community that reached out then we would try and do something."

In the years Bob has been active he has made 17,852 toques, neck-warmers and socks.

Bob's son also wanted to reiterate that it's a team effort, but it wouldn't have been possible if not for Bob himself.

"It's important for people to know that seniors can contribute, no matter how old you are."

"I cannot believe the generosity of Bob and his organization, it kind of put us all to tears really," said Krug-MacLean.

"In a place where we don't have the most positive of things happen based on Covid, to get something like that is amazing."