De Soto donations fuel relief drive
Mike Henre is greatly gratified for the room full of clothes, toys, blankets and other donated materials temporarily stored in a third-floor room at De Soto City Hall.
The room full of donations, others stored at Henre's Tonganoxie home and still more collected in Arkansas, will be taken in mid-August to Lakota Sioux on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. The collection is the second organized by Henre, his son Chester, and Ken and Rebecca Clarke, the parent's of Chester's girlfriend.
"It's been kind of overwhelming -- the response," the mechanic for the city of De Soto street department said. "There is definitely a need for everything in this room.
"When we went up there last time it was 26 degrees, and there were kids walking around in bare feet because they had no shoes. We were able to get shoes for everyone."
In early December 2004, Henre, his son and Clarke found he Sioux grateful for the donations in the first delivery. Nearly everything was in short supply in reservation towns so isolated that it took more than an 80-mile roundtrip to get a gallon of milk, Henre said.
The three men left the first trip to the reservation determined to return with more donations. As they did for the first trip, members of the De Soto Baptist Church pitched in with donations. That effort was aided by the De Soto Multi-Service Center.
De Soto City Clerk Lana McPherson said donations continue to pour in, although no more clothes were being accepted. The last articles of clothing stored in the room were 60 stocking caps knitted by Freda Anderson.
"She didn't want any kids having cold heads this winter," McPherson said.
A quick inventory Monday found a microwave oven and bicycle among the boxes of clothes.
In all, Henre estimated he now had more than enough to fill two 24-foot trailers, which he and Chester will pull to nine different towns on the reservation. The Clarkes will join them with two 45-foot semitrailers. The trip will be the weekend of Aug. 19.
The visit to the nine towns will make for about a 1,800-mile roundtrip, McPherson said, noting that Henre and Clarke paid for the trip out of their own pockets.
With more miles to travel and higher fuel prices, Henre is accepting donations to offset the expense for the August trip. Those who would like to donate can call McPherson at City Hall at 583-1182 or send the donation to Henre at: 109 N. Village; P.O. Box 669; Tonganoxie 66086.
Henre said the trip will help make up for years of indifference that has left the Sioux stoic in the face of constant want.
"The question we were asked last time was, 'Why does anybody care?'" Henre said.