The excitement, challenges, and upheavals in 2008 have made this past year one of the most dynamic and unforgettable in our eight-year operational history. The beginning months of 2008 were marked by the tough decision to halt our in-person operations in the Mexican cities directly south of the U.S./Mexican border indefinitely due to the dangers and threats of violence experienced by our volunteers who attempted to deliver socks and letters of hope throughout the upper Baja California peninsula. Residents of Southern California have opened their newspapers to read of unending violence and murders aking place, even at the most popular tourist destinations of Tijuana and Ensenada, as rug cartels and gangs murder innocent people who accidentally find themselves in the middle of the fighting between local police and the drug rings. The U.S. Department of State has issued statements warning all Americans to avoid crossing the border if at all possible. The result of these warnings is that thousands of people living at or below the poverty level in Mexico, people who need our socks, cannot always receive them.
Nevertheless, we are confident that we will find a way to continue delivering socks to the children of Baja California who don’t have any. Our contacts and volunteers there are reliable and we will surely make it happen again. We have also recently established a contact in the Yucatan part of Mexico and in December of this past year, over two thousand pairs of new socks and letters of hope were delivered to the indigenous people of Merida, the capital city of the Yucatan, through medical clinics established there by both U.S. and Mexican health officials.
Because of increased problems of delivering socks internationally not only to Mexico but to other hot spots of the world, we tried to restructure many of our deliveries in 2008 to people in need within our own country. As part of our target campaign to reach district schools and service organizations across the United States, our 2008 slogan became “Sox Footprints Across America”. When Hurricane Gustav and Hurricane Ike pounded the Gulf Coast, our volunteers made their way to Texas and Louisiana to help those people in need. The major newspaper in Houston, Texas, the Houston Chronicle, was not only kind enough to publish an article on our efforts to reach hurricane evacuees but, also, they helped us gather new sources and listings of orphanages, shelters, hospitals and other charitable organizations in their local area who could benefit from our socks. In the Galveston area, located approximately 35 miles from Houston, we delivered suitcases of socks to people in the hurricane-devastated areas of San Leon, Kemah, Seabrooke, and Bayou Vista. Three of our volunteers drove all the way to Louisiana where we were able to bring socks and letters of inspiration to the city of Houma in the Terrebonne Parish where Hurricane Ike had caused more flooding than the previous Hurricane Gustav (only two weeks apart!) because of the more extensive storm surge.
Photos taken of our operation cannot truly capture the destruction and havoc wreaked by Hurricane Ike. In one particular small town called San Leon, our volunteers were saddened to see that almost forty percent of the apartments and houses in the city had been leveled by the hurricane. Steel roofs were bent and twisted in odd shapes as if they were rubber bands. Windows were blown out of every single house that we observed. As we drove through street after street of the city, we were shocked to find the town still almost entirely deserted, even during a return trip almost three weeks after the hurricane. There was none of the usual sounds of music or TV or the laughter of children playing in their yards as we drove down roads still filled with debris and trash. Instead, there was a haunting silence in the middle of the day that we will never forget.