Lelan Smith’s father is a pretty smart guy. “My dad says the two ways to be healthy are to keep your head warm and to keep your feet warm,” Smith said. Simple as that sounds, poverty complicates the formula. Smith is a student at Oakland High School, where the students’ lives can be complicated indeed. At 17, Smith has a 2-year-old daughter. Oakland allows her to build her schedule around that responsibility, and her goal of getting a diploma, a job and her own place. It does the same for students in equally difficult circumstances. Some work full-time jobs so they can stay housed. Some couch surf. Some have no home or enough food, and not a penny for clothes. For all of them, Christine Lucy of Communities in Schools runs a clothing bank stocked with shoes, jeans, school wear, work clothes and not enough coats, hoodies and socks. On Nov. 26, she had one basket of white cotton socks, some of which came in used. New, warm socks are a rare thrill in the clothing bank.
That is a shame, Smith said. About this time of year, when it is raw and wet, some of her friends start to get cold feet, and then they start to get sick. When that happens, they miss school, and their grades, and graduation dates, slip, messing up lives that already are hard enough to manage. Socks – warm feet – could prevent some of that, Smith said. But the supply is short and the young people, especially the poorest, are proud. It is a form of self-defense. “If you ask for something, people around you think you’re needy,” Smith said. “They don’t want people to know. They don’t want other kids to make fun of them. You shouldn’t have to ask for it if you don’t have shoes or socks.” That is the luxury Tacoma’s Sock Drive hopes to meet: To have enough socks on hand that getting a new pair is no big thing. All a teacher, aide or lunch lady would have to do is notice a kid with cold feet. It is not that hard. “Are your socks wet?” not, “Do you need new socks?” the staffer could ask. Then, “Let’s go to the sock stash and get you a dry pair.” With enough socks, we can make warm feet that easy. We can do it by dropping new socks in the bins at Tacoma’s Municipal Building, all fire stations and all police substations. We can take new socks to any Tacoma Public School and the administration building and see how happy we make the office staff. If you would like to have a poster and collect socks for the drive, please e-mail me at email@example.com.
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