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Non-profit NONIA helps keep Gathering Place patrons warm, celebrates 100th anniversary

Wool socks from NONIA are bound for The Gathering Place after the annual pre-Christmas buy one, give one event. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Wool socks from NONIA are bound for The Gathering Place after the annual pre-Christmas buy one, give one event. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

NONIA socks it to winter

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

NONIA customers have really taken to some purls of wisdom the last few years — wool socks are the best for the cold and buying them during the pre-Christmas buy one, give one event was good for both their souls and the soles of people in need.

NONIA, the non-profit store on Water Street in St. John’s that specializes in Newfoundland and Labrador hand knits, gave The Gathering Place 40 pairs of socks purchased during the buy one, give one event that has become a recent tradition in the Christmas shopping season.

Keelin O'Leary, manager of NONIA, the hand-knit non-profit store in St. John's, displays wool socks that were part of a pre-Christmas promotion in which customers could buy a pair and see a pair donated to The Gathering Place. BARB SWEET/THE TELEGRAM
Keelin O'Leary, manager of NONIA, the hand-knit non-profit store in St. John's, displays wool socks that were part of a pre-Christmas promotion in which customers could buy a pair and see a pair donated to The Gathering Place. BARB SWEET/THE TELEGRAM

During that time, anyone purchasing a pair of socks would see NONIA donate a pair of work-style wool socks (which have 20 per cent nylon for durability) to The Gathering Place, a St. John’s charity that provides food, clothing, medical, dental, counselling and other services to vulnerable individuals.

“It just came to me one day,” NONIA manager Keelin O’Leary said of the buy one, give one promotion, which started three years ago.

Not only was it a way to promote sock sales, it made people feel good about helping the community.

“It was really positive,” 35-year NONIA employee Cathy Marsh said of the customer reaction.

Some customers living away even sent money to the store to donate both pairs.

Hand-knit wool socks have gained prominence again as people turn to natural fibres, noted O’Leary, so this year’s donation basket was overflowing.

“They seem to be very popular,” agreed quality control associate Linda Badcock. “They’re good for cold days.”

For The Gathering Place, the gift is momentous.

In January, the charity helped 2,500 people, and every week there are more and more in need, Gathering Place executive director Joanne Thompson said.


To help mark its 100th anniversary this year, NONIA has revived its caribou pattern for socks and mitts. BARB SWEET/THE TELEGRAM
To help mark its 100th anniversary this year, NONIA has revived its caribou pattern for socks and mitts. BARB SWEET/THE TELEGRAM


Particularly with the number of storms this winter, warm blankets, mitts, coats and socks are essentials.

“If you are constantly fleeing violence or sheltering wherever you can shelter, the need for mittens, socks, in some cases it can be on a daily basis,” Thompson said.

“NONIA has been doing such phenomenal work for so long, and still has a sense of giving back and a real connection with basic needs in the community. It’s really wonderful.”


A heritage caribou pattern sweater that NONIA sold during the 1960s and 1970s. The sweater is in a commemorative display case at the Water Street store. BARB SWEET/THE TELEGRAM
A heritage caribou pattern sweater that NONIA sold during the 1960s and 1970s. The sweater is in a commemorative display case at the Water Street store. BARB SWEET/THE TELEGRAM

NONIA, which has 150 active knitters on mainly the island portion of the province, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

The founding date was May 27, 1920, a Wednesday, which is the exact day that NONIA will hold its annual general meeting at Government House, where it all began for the Newfoundland Outpost Nursing and Industrial Association.

It was founded to bring nursing support to rural areas, a need taken over in the 1930s by public health care.

At its height NONIA had 400 knitters, and some of them have been producing for several decades. Patterns and wool are distributed by the quality-control department at the St. John’s building.


A map of the locations of the 150 knitters who produce hand-knit goods for non-profit NONIA in St. John's. BARB SWEET/THE TELEGRAM
A map of the locations of the 150 knitters who produce hand-knit goods for non-profit NONIA in St. John's. BARB SWEET/THE TELEGRAM

 


To commemorate the anniversary, artist Morgan MacDonald is working on a bronze sculpture, which will be installed on Government House grounds.

NONIA is also reviving its caribou pattern, a feature of sweaters in the 1960s and ’70s, but on socks and mittens.

All the knitters have also completed squares that are being assembled into a commemorative blanket.

Meanwhile, for anyone wanting to help The Gathering Place, the charity welcomes basic items like toiletries, toilet tissue, financial donations and, at this time of year, cold-weather items such as gloves, winter boots and blankets. Those can be dropped off at the Military Road facility by The Basilica.

Twitter: @BarbSweetTweets


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