Nelson Mendonca teaching someone how knit a toque by looming. Mendonca has been teaching people at Phoenix Society how to knit and the “toquers” are knitting to help fundraise for the Surrey-Whalley 2021 Coldest Night of the Year virtual fundraiser. (Photo submitted: Amy Reid)

Nelson Mendonca teaching someone how knit a toque by looming. Mendonca has been teaching people at Phoenix Society how to knit and the “toquers” are knitting to help fundraise for the Surrey-Whalley 2021 Coldest Night of the Year virtual fundraiser. (Photo submitted: Amy Reid)

Phoenix Society ‘toquers’ fundraising for Surrey-Whalley ‘Coldest Night’ walk

The virtual walk is Feb. 20

Like many events in the past year, the Coldest Night of the Year walk is going virtual.

The Surrey-Whalley ‘walk,’ hosted by the Surrey Road Home to Recovery, is set for Feb. 20.

Coldest Night of the Year is a walk to raise money for charities serving people experiencing homelessness. Since 2011, the walks have raised more than $33.5 million in 144 communities across Canada.

This year’s fundraising goal is $25,000.

By Saturday (Jan. 9), the Surrey-Whalley walk has three teams signed up and about nine walkers.

One of the teams is Phoenix Society, along with its “toquers.”

Kristin Macdonald, recreation and events coordinator at Phoenix, said the society had to “re-envision” how to participate in the walk this year.

“We were lucky enough to have this local and international news coverage that came about with our knitting group. We thought it would be great to have them involved in the initiative this year,” she said.

READ ALSO: ‘The loom of life’: Men in recovery in Surrey make toques for homeless, babies, Dec. 12, 2020

Nelson Mendonca, who is now in the transitional housing program at Phoenix, learned how to knit while he was in jail. When he got to Phoenix, Mendonca took up knitting again after starting to feel a bit anxious.

That snowballed, and Mendonca ended up teaching several other men at Phoenix how to knit. They’ve made more than 200 toques so far.

And now, Macdonald said, the “toquers” have a goal to knit 150 or more toques to donate to the Coldest Night of the Year initiative or the homeless community. And for a donation of $25 or more to the Phoenix fundraising page, people will also receive a toque.

“We saw such amazing support,” she said. “We’ve seen more than $7,000 in donations come in, specifically, for this (knitting) program. It’s a great way to utilize some of these funds to not only expand the program but also be able to get involved with the Coldest Night of The Year initiative this year.”

Macdonald said Phoenix now has more people getting involved in the knitting program, both from the treatment and transitional housing programs.

She added when the guys started looming, the residents “always had the goal of being able to give back in some way.”

“I’ve heard them say that it feels like it’s a full-circle moment for them,” she explained.

“Many of our residents have expressed that at one time they were homeless or experienced homelessness before and now they are on their recovery journey and they’re able to give back to people who are in that same position that they were in at one time.”

READ ALSO: Surrey homeless, recovery counts show need for long-term solutions, Nov. 28, 2020

To donate to the Surrey-Whalley walk, visit

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