Marquette Alternative High School students support homeless

MARQUETTE – With more than 430 pairs of socks, the students at Marquette Alternative High School more than doubled their initial collection goal for the school’s Rock the Socks fundraiser.

All the socks collected by the MAHS will go to local elementary schools for needy children, the St. Vincent de Paul Society of Marquette and the residents of the Janzen House.

Though most area schools were shut down the two days prior to Thursday’s collection day, MAHS English teacher Cindy DePetro’s Women’s Literature class led the charge to collect the warm winter socks. She said the extreme cold may have actually helped raise awareness about the homeless, a group on which the fundraiser focused.

“The snow days in one respect hurt us because we didn’t have time to remind each other about it and were planning on using those days to work as a group,” DePetro said. “But the one thing that the cold weather did do was also bring us closer to an understanding of how truly horrible it is when it is that cold out.”

With temperatures reaching 35 below zero – with wind chill factors included – DePetro said she could only imagine what not having a pair or two of warm socks on your feet would feel like.

Driving in her car Wednesday night, DePetro said even with the car’s heater running, her feet just wouldn’t warm up.

“My heater in my car was working fine and my feet still froze,” DePetro said. “The whole time I was thinking of somebody who was homeless and what it must have been like for them.”

The students agreed, saying the extreme cold also made them appreciate the simple comfort afforded by those who have access to warm winter socks.

The group is hoping to make the fundraiser an annual event at MAHS.

Schools around Marquette County also participated in the collection – though some postponed their collection dates because of the two-day hiatus from school.

Students at MAHS were also treated to a guest speaker Thursday, one who proved to be perfect for the occasion.

Eric LeMarque, a former Northern Michigan University hockey player, told his story of being stuck in the subzero temperatures in the Sierra Nevada mountains for a week.

LeMarque had extensive frostbite and both his feet had to be amputated.

DePetro said it was something close to karma that helped bring LeMarque to the school to speak at the same time the winter sock collection was happening.

“I truly believe that is kindness coming back to our students,” DePetro said. “Our students reached out to do something very kind and they got the opportunity to meet a truly amazing and inspiring man whose story, you can’t find a story like that around any corner.”

Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.