After the enormous success of Hope House's Backpack Drive last year, Tom and Cathy Benzler have now set their sights on feet. Not only do the children of the Olympic Peninsula's tribes need shoes for the upcoming winter, but a pair of new socks shoes encourages excitement for a new school year.
Across the tribes of Washington State, (the Benzler's work primarily with the Lower Elwha, LaPush, and the Hoh), the high school graduation rate is only 53%. Only half of the Native American students in Washington graduate from high school. Unfortunately, this is the norm among American Indians and Alaska Natives across the nation.
It's a huge problem with a lot of moving parts, but as far as Tom and Cathy are concerned, they know the work they are doing is making a difference!
"Last year, the children were so excited to get their backpacks and school supplies," says Cathy. "I think so many of us take back to school shopping for granted. But for some of these kids, this was the first time they had something new for a new school year. It's amazing what a profound affect a small gift can have."
One little boy loved his Batman backpack so much, he insisted on wearing it everywhere he went until school started. Just imagine if he got some Batman socks this year!
New socks and shoes make start the school year off right and make school exciting.
A generous donor from Indiana will be delivering 92 pairs of new shoes to the Hope House in July, and Tom and Cathy would love to include a couple new pairs of socks with each pair.
But, there is more than just shoes and backpacks at work here.
Tom explains that the work he and Cathy are doing is helping to build up the community.
A few years ago, the Benzlers helped to create small gardens in the yards of a handful of families on the reservations after noticing the severe lack of access to fresh vegetables. Within a few years, the Lower Elwha tribal leadership built a large community garden.
After the impact of last year's backpack giveaway, a local tribal-owned casino offered a grant to cover this year's backpacks and school supplies.
"If we can continue to raise awareness and get the ball rolling, we can really make an impact on the lives of Native Americans living on the Olympic Peninsula!" insists Cathy. "We really want all these children to know that someone genuinely cares about them. They are the future, and we want to help give them a bright future!"
Socks seem like a small thing, but for a child with little to call their own - they can mean a future!
As of this story, the Benzler have 92 pairs of shoes and about three dozen pairs of socks to distribute to the Native communities with whom they have relationships. But, more goods means more children reached and facilitates relationships with new communities. (Last year's backpacks opened a door for the Benzlers to start working on the Hoh Reservation!)
You can help by collecting NEW socks that can be distributed to students in need this fall.
Poster is size 11"x17" but can be printed to the size you need.
Collected socks can be shipped to:
HOPE HOUSE SOCKS
c/o Cathy Benzler
P.O. Box 2955
Port Angeles, WA 98362