Josh Berry, the founder of 2 Pairs Each had an early education in altruism. Home-schooled as a kid, Josh travelled with his parents, volunteering in countries like Mozambique, South Africa and Cambodia. Josh says, “It really broadened my understanding and opened my eyes.” Josh’s mum, Jane Berry, reports that, even then, Josh gravitated towards the kids who were struggling or different.

Josh was eight or nine when he saw homeless people in Flinders Street and wanted to do something to help them. “I came home, had a look around and thought, ‘What’s the biggest need?’

I thought that socks were the biggest need. A house would be the first, but it’s hard to get houses. After that, warm clothing. But one thing the public doesn’t give when they donate clothes is their socks, so I thought, ‘Why don’t I get brand new socks for them.’”

Josh discovered there were twenty-three thousand homeless people in Victoria at the time, but he doubled that because every time they washed their socks, they needed another pair to put on – hence 2 Pairs Each. His goal was forty-two thousand pairs of socks, which he rounded off to fifty thousand. So far, Josh has raised forty-two thousand pairs of socks. Josh is turning eighteen at Christmas and fervently hopes to reach the fifty thousand by then. You can donate the socks or money (all the money goes to socks). Josh says, “We usually buy them on sale so we get more bang for our buck.”

Photos: Yanni

Funnily enough, Josh doesn’t wear socks very often, preferring to go sockless. “Once I was interviewed, and my socks had holes in them, and the journalist said, ‘You need socks,’” he says, laughing. “When I put on a nice pair of socks, it makes me feel warm. Socks are the things that wear out quickest, especially if you don’t have good quality shoes. Also, in winter, even if they don’t have any shoes, they need socks because the concrete is freezing.”

When awarded Young Citizen of the Year by the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council, Josh said, “It was quite a surprise.

I didn’t realise I’d been nominated. When they called me up, I was quite shocked and amazed.” The Berry family are staunch volunteers in the community, and Josh’s sister, Sarah, was given the same award some years ago for her work sending a container load of books to Cambodia.

Josh has met many of the homeless that he has helped. He says, “There was a professor who couldn’t pay his rent, so he was evicted and ended up on the street. The stories shocked me. Why aren’t we doing more about it? They’re very thankful for the socks because they can stay warm. We go to different organisations that know the local area and where the homeless people are. The Royal District Nursing Service used to be the health support for the homeless on the Peninsula, and often they would buy things out of their pocket, so we would supply them with socks.”

It’s a common criticism of young people today that they lack empathy, but Josh doesn’t agree. He says, “Some young people lack empathy, perhaps because it’s not modelled to them by their parents or schools might not be teaching it, but there are other young people who have heaps of empathy and like to help other people and some of them give out socks for us. Because we are Christians, we were brought up to respect others. It’s been ingrained in us to help other people.”

Australia Day Young Citizen of the Year ceremony.

Aside from 2 Pairs Each, Josh has been busy volunteering for Sailability, which takes disabled and disadvantaged people out in small sailing boats; he has been a member of the Junior CFA for a couple of years, especially during the Good Friday Appeal, and he collects money for the local RSL through Air Force Cadets. The Cadets training includes outdoor activities, as well as teaching  service knowledge, leadership, Air Force history, the theory of engines and flight and drones, which they learn to fly. It is even possible to learn to fly a plane. Josh hopes to join the Air Force. However, he intends to serve on the ground, although the Biggles books were an early inspiration. He hopes to keep on helping others through the peacekeeping, humanitarian and disaster relief efforts of our defence forces.

Josh saw a lot of defence force members helping out when he volunteered during the relief efforts for the Lismore floods. Josh and mum Jane went off their own bat. Josh helped sort out the food, and Jane, a former nurse, helped with the medical equipment.

As a busy volunteer, how does he manage his time? “I plan it out. Air Force Cadets helped me to think ahead.”

What does Josh get out of his volunteering? “Just feeling good and joyful inside.”

If you’d like to donate new socks or money to Josh’s campaign, look on Facebook at 2 Pairs Each or their website.

Peninsula Essence – November 2023