Deacon and Deaconess Tom (Ioway) and Cathy (Cherokee) Benzler, who serve Native communities on the Olympic Peninsula through Lutheran Indian Ministries’ Hope House, have kicked off their Backpack Drive for the 2015-2016 school year. “Our goal is to collect 500 new backpacks by September 1 for children and teens in grades K-12,” said Cathy.
Last year, Cathy and Tom noticed that many of the Native children did not have backpacks at the start of school. “I didn’t want that to happen again this year,” she said.
Each year, the Benzlers ask Olympic Peninsula congregations and others to collect school supplies for nearby Native communities. Backpacks, however, cost a little more, so they felt it was important to collect them separately.
“We all know how important it is for kids to start out the school year with everything that fosters good learning habits,” Tom added. “There’s too much at stake not to help.”
Members of the LWML Washington-Alaska District, Mount Baker Zone have already donated backpacks, as well Faith Lutheran Church in Sequim, Washington. Other local churches plan to collect backpacks during vacation Bible school this summer. “So far,” Cathy said, “we have 26 backpacks, and they are all really nice! Even high-schoolers will feel confident carrying these.”
The Benzlers collect and often purchase canned goods and fresh produce to help supplement the physical needs of Natives on the Lower Elwha Reservation, in Neah Bay and surrounding Native communities. Local supporters follow a list of monthly items that Hope House collects to supplement the needs of Native residents. Women’s groups and others also provide handmade quilts and prayer shawls, knitted caps, gloves and scarves and other winter wear.
With food collections and a backpack drive, Cathy said, “We have outgrown our current storage facility. Thankfully, God has provided us with a 12-by-16-foot building with loft storage, ample shelving and electricity for lighting and refrigeration.”
Besides caring for the physical needs of Natives on the Olympic Peninsula, Tom and Cathy also visit the elders to pray with them and encourage them in God’s Word. They are often called to look in on those who are sick at home or in the hospital. Every week as well, Cathy said they are blessed to provide Bible studies on the reservation.
“It’s always exciting to watch our Native brothers and sisters grow in faith,” said Cathy. “We are so blessed to see God at work in their lives, providing hope that only He can give.”
Backpack donations may be sent directly to the Hope House. Please click the button below for the Hope House mailing information and to download a donation form to send with your backpack or monetary donation.
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