WATERVILLE — People living at the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter will have warm socks to wear for a long time, thanks to the efforts of children and staff at Mount Merici Academy.

The private Catholic school collected 1,800 pairs of socks for the shelter after shelter Director Betty Palmer visited the school two weeks ago told the children that homeless people often go without socks and their feet are cold.

Palmer promised the children she would not wear socks for two weeks — or until they collected seven pairs of socks for each of the 21 children living at the shelter — a pair for every day of the week.

“The children and families from our school took on the challenge of filling a long clothesline running the entire length of our gymnasium with socks for infants, children, teens and adults,” said teacher Donna Russo.

The Western Avenue school more than exceeded Palmer’s expectations. When Palmer went there Thursday to pick up the load of socks, she was astounded.

The shelter on Thursday had 61 residents, including the 21 children, and the socks were a godsend, she said.

The students made their effort a project for Catholic Schools Week, which was Jan. 26-Feb. 1.

But it turned out that the sock drive grew beyond the boundaries of the school once the word got out, Palmer said.

One woman stuffed personal care kits into the socks that included soap, shampoo, toothpaste and toothbrushes.

After a message was posted on Facebook about the school effort, a woman from out of town who saw it mailed 10 pairs to the shelter to add to the collection.

People also brought socks and other items to the shelter, according to Palmer, who was bubbling over with enthusiasm and appreciation Thursday.

“I got to put my socks back on today,” she said, adding that her feet were cold much of the two weeks she went without them. An elevator is being installed in the shelter and because of that work, her office was between 52 and 58 degrees, she said.

She said she wore shoes during the last two weeks, but no boots, which gave her a better understanding about what it is like for homeless people who come to the shelter and are wearing no socks.

“We have people come into the shelter with one sock on and one sock off,” she said.

Meanwhile, with Thursday’s snow storm, the children who live at the shelter were released from school early and when they arrived at the shelter, they were excited to see the mountain of socks — everything from fluffy socks to Garfield socks.

“I don’t know that there were two pairs alike, so everyone got to choose some favorite socks,” she said.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

acalder@centralmaine.com Twitter: @AmyCalder17