Ian started his career as a soldier. He was out in the field, tired, cold, and wet. The army insisted that he put on a pair of clean, dry socks each day. He didn’t realise the importance at first, but the simple pleasure of a warm pair of socks, made a great deal of difference.
He left army and joined the police force in Birmingham. Working in the city, he met a lot of homeless people. But one homeless person had a particular big impact on Ian’s life. Joe [not his real name] wasn’t a very friendly man – he caused trouble for the police and he was hard to deal with, but Ian did what he could to help him and took him the occasional chocolate bar. Over time they developed an understanding – they had mutual respect for each other.
One dark evening, Ian found himself in a deserted subway of Birmingham with a group of rowdy guys coming towards him. As a young and inexperienced police officer, Ian felt threatened and intimidated. He wondered whether to call for back up. But then, Joe stepped out of the bushes. He stood next to Ian – a sign of solidarity – and the group continued on their way. Joe slunk back into the bushes and left Ian to continue his patrols. Three weeks later, Joe was found on a cold morning, face down dead in a Birmingham fountain.
Ian was hugely inspired and affected by Joe and in 2010, he decided it was time to do something. He decided to collect socks and chocolates for homeless people. His friends and family made donations, and together they collected 500 pairs of socks, 1000 bars of chocolate and £500 that bought 60 sleeping bags. They were donated to the homeless on Christmas Day.
In 2011, more people showed their support. They doubled their efforts and 1000 pairs of socks were donated in Coventry, Wolverhampton as well as Birmingham. In 2012, they were able to reach out to the homeless people of Worcester as well with a collection of 1,500 pairs of socks.
Then, in 2013 something extraordinary happened. Ian was on patrol in Birmingham, walking down New Street, and he picked up a buskers guitar. This is what happened:
It was filmed by the passers-by, posted on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter. It quickly reached 700,000 hits and received media coverage in Birmingham and around the world. From that one-off performance, the “Busking Bobby” was born. That year, they got 8,500 pairs of socks, 3,500 bars of chocolate and 229 sleeping bags.
In 2014 Ian set a Socks and Chocs target of 10,000 pairs of socks. This target was SMASHED with over 17000 pairs of socks donated nationally – inspired by Socks and Chocs. See the towns and cities mentioned on the “Donate” page. Here are the 2014 totals:
17072 Pairs of Socks
586 Sleeping Bags
2827 Miscellaneous (Hats/gloves/towels/underwear etc)
In 2015 Socks and Chocs is again looking for 10000 pairs of socks, 10000 bits of chocolate, 1000 sleeping bags and 3000 other miscellaneous items.