How Vt. businesses are helping the homeless this holiday season

Published: Nov. 22, 2017 at 11:55 AM EST
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"This is an underserved community in a big way," said Dr. James Michelson of the UVM Medical Center.

The homeless population is a hot topic of discussion in Burlington these days, and now that the weather is turning colder, many are worried about how they will make it through.

"They need their feet to be working optimally in order for them to survive," Michelson said.

That's why Michelson and his team are examining feet, clipping toenails and making sure the homeless population is fitted with free pairs of socks and boots.

"Their feet are remarkably good," the doctor said.

Michelson says that's pretty common because homeless people know their lives depend on their feet. Shoes are donated by Minnesota-based Red Wing shoes. Socks come from operating room nurses at the UVM Medical Center.

Carrie Paquette is the assistant general manager at the Windjammer in South Burlington. They've been collecting coats for over 20 years to be distributed at Sweetwaters in Burlington on Thanksgiving Day.

"There's people that are willing to give and help out when they can. It's nice to see and it really helps you feel a part of the community to give back like that," Paquette said.

She says the community response to the coat drive is overwhelming every year.

"We actually do have people call us in advance and ask when the coat drive box will be out," she said.

Community members even expanded the coat drive on their own by bringing in boots, mittens and gloves.

"Someone dropped off a box of little baggies of toothbrushes with toothpaste to give out to people individually, which I thought was a great idea," Paquette said.

While some may not have ideal situations during the holidays, community members like these make the season tolerable for those less fortunate.

"I just do really want to say thank you to everybody. It is amazing the amount of coats that are dropped off and how willing and giving people are," Paquette said.

Those coats can be picked up at Sweetwaters Thursday starting at 8 a.m. before a free Thanksgiving meal is served, that starts at 10.