Hol­i­day Wishes For Rub­bah Slip­pahs

MidWeek (Hawaii) - - Front Page - MOON­LIGHT­ING Jade Moon

Iam a school nurse at **** Elementary. We have a large home­less pop­u­la­tion in our area. Many of our stu­dents come to school with old or near-bro­ken footwear. Of­ten we have to duct tape it to get them through the day, and they con­tinue to wear the duct-taped footwear due to no other op­tions at home. It would be nice to have a sup­ply of footwear avail­able for those chil­dren in need.”

Can you i mag­ine not hav­ing enough money to buy your kid a new pair of slip­pers?

When Alyn Vasquez Dela-Cerna re­ceived that email a cou­ple of weeks ago, her heart sank. As the founder of The Slip­pah Foun­da­tion, it’s her mis­sion to get slip­pers to kids. But this time she couldn’t. She’d run out, simple as that. And there was no money to buy any more.

Have you heard of The Slip­pah Foun­da­tion? It’s ex­actly what its name im­plies — a char­ity for lo­cal folks. She and a few vol­un­teers col­lect do­na­tions to buy slip­pers and then dis­trib­ute them to kids and adults in need.

I knew her when she first started out in 2005 — a sin­gle mom liv­ing in public hous­ing. De­spite her own hard­ships, she was think­ing of the chil­dren in the hous­ing com­plex.

“I was liv­ing at Mayor Wright Hous­ing,” she says. “And I saw about a dozen boys play­ing foot­ball, and they didn’t have footwear. And liv­ing in the hous­ing get all kind rub­bish, you know, nee­dles and ev­ery­thing.

“At that time I was liv­ing on So­cial Se­cu­rity. And I said, if I had money I would buy them footwear.”

Alyn of­ten posted on a lo­cal in­ter­net fo­rum called Ha day was, “What do you want for Christ­mas?”

Blaine Ferg­er­strom, then a r eporter f or Honolulu Star-Bul­letin, wrote in his orig­i­nal 2005 ar­ti­cle:

“The usual sug­ges­tions fol­lowed: a new job; a lap­top com­puter; world peace; mo­tor­cy­cle; un­der­wear; kitchen ap­pli­ances; gift cards.” Then Alyn posted this: “I wish for all the chil­dren of (Mayor Wright) to have a pair of rub­ber slip­pers so they won’t have to go bare­foot.”

That self­less wish kicked off a lit­tle ex­plo­sion of ac­tiv­ity. Fo­rum mem­bers jumped to help. Sue Larkin or­ga­nized, col­lected money and found whole­salers will­ing to sell at or near cost. Alyn went door to door at the com­plex, record­ing names and shoe sizes.

That year, all the kids at Mayor Wright Homes got brand-new slip­pers.

Ferg­er­strom, the re­porter, went above and be­yond his jour­nal­is­tic job de­scrip­tion.

“Yeah, I helped Alyn out in the early days,” he ex­plains. “I was work­ing at the Bul­letin and wrote a story about and helped her get set up as a 501 be­cause all the do­na­tions were be­ing sent through my per­sonal ac­count! Yikes!”

Ferg­er­strom, who still owns and runs the web­site, says they were amazed when the project took off.

And it only got big­ger and bet­ter.

“The se­cond year,” Alyn says, “we had enough money to in­clude two other public hous­ing. The third year I had enough slip­pers to give to shel­ters.”

By the fourth year they had be­come a foun­da­tion.

Today, more than a decade later, Alyn no longer lives at Mayor Wright. She’s mar­ried, em­ployed and her chil­dren are all grown up and do­ing well.

Although her own for­tunes have risen, she’s still ded­i­cated to her cause.

But she’s wor­ried. The do­na­tions are dry­ing up, Alyn says, just when the need is great­est. That’s why she can’t buy slip­pers for the kids at that elementary school.

That email from the school nurse tells me that Alyn is right to be wor­ried. It may be hard to wrap your head around the fact that fam­i­lies can’t af­ford slip­pers — but it’s true.

Christ­mas sea­son is ap­proach­ing fast. Alyn wants to make sure she’s able to give the chil­dren what they need.

If you’d like to help, there’s a do­na­tion link at slip­pah.org.

Alyn Vasquez-Dela Cerna

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