Mystery clothesline inspires Saint John man to gather donations

·2 min read
Mystery clothesline inspires Saint John man to gather donations
George Touhakis was inspired to start a winter clothing drive in Saint John after seeing a clothesline go up in King's Square.
George Touhakis was inspired to start a winter clothing drive in Saint John after seeing a clothesline go up in King's Square.

(Submitted by George Touhakis - image credit)

George Touhakis didn't know for weeks who first set up the clothesline filled with hats and jackets in Saint John's King's Square.

When the line first went up in mid-January with a few hats, it inspired him to organize a clothing drive involving people and businesses across the city.

"I saw people standing around ready to get clothes, so I assumed that more clothes ought to be brought there," he said.

Hundreds of items for people in need have been hung in the square, ranging from warm mittens, to sweatshirts, tuques, coats and scarves.

Touhakis turned to social media to spread the word and ask for donations. Many individuals and businesses offered clothes for him to add to the square.

The semi-retired construction worker goes every day at 2 p.m. to add more clothing to the lines. People have started coming by at that time and the items are often gone within a few hours.

"I couldn't even put the clothes on the line one day, I gave all the gloves and the hats out," he said.

Tony Dickinson called the clothesline project "fantastic." He's the director of shelter and housing for Outflow, a men's shelter in Saint John.

"What I like particularly about the mystery clothing line is how discrete it is, because you can go get what you need and not have to ask somebody at any given moment," he said.

Boots and winter coats are in the highest demand at the shelter, which has been open 24 hours a day as a temporary response to the pandemic. People in need of a place to keep warm can stay inside during daytime hours.

"We're close to full most days, and a lot of guys will stay inside for a good chunk of the day," Dickinson said.

Touhakis is also involved in other charitable work in the city. Every Christmas Eve for the past five years, he's walked around and handed out Tim Hortons gift cards to people who appear to be in need.

"The ripple effect has been amazing." - George Touhakis

Earlier in the winter he organized deliveries of buckets of sand for seniors' driveways.

The volunteer is always looking for a project to keep him busy when he's not working part-time as a bartender. The effort has encouraged others in the city to stop by and add donations themselves.

Touhakis said the credit goes to the person who started it all by putting up the clothesline.

He's turned to social media to try and find the individual and thank them.

"I love Saint John and I just want to give back." he said.

"The ripple effect has been amazing."