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Della Davidson students provide coats for South Dakota Indian Reservation

Four years ago, Anita Havens began a mission project that involved lost coats.

At the end of each school year, the Della Davidson Elementary teacher would go through the lost and found room, which was full of unclaimed coats. Havens wanted to make use of the abandoned coats and other winter weather gear, so she came up with the idea of donating them to an Indian reservation in South Dakota.

The Pea Ridge Indian Reservation is the home of the Lakota Sioux, the eighth-largest Native American reservation. The reservation is also the poorest area in the United States, with 98 percent of its residents living below national poverty level.

Housing is substandard, with many living without electricity or running water. There is an average of 17 people living in each dwelling on the reservation, with some living in mobile homes with no windows, tents or abandoned cars.

With the help of pilots from north central Mississippi, Havens has spent the past four seasons delivering coats to the reservation. Once students at Della Davidson heard what she was doing, they began to bring their own gently used, outgrown coats from home to add to the coat drive.

Six local pilots helped fly the coats to Mount Ridge, Kan. as the first leg of the journey, with a second group of volunteer pilots completing the remaining three hours to Pine Ridge. This year’s trip took place in November.

Those pilots were Charlie Miller of Tupelo, Dr. Dennis Truax of Starkville, Thomas Sipple of Starkville, Alan Warfield of Booneville, Dave Leonard of Water Valley and Lynn Havens of Bruce.

“A lot of the time, donations go to people who don’t really need them, ” said Carl Weaver, one of the pilots who takes the coats from Kansas to South Dakota. “But I tell you what — I came away from there the first year with tears in my eyes. Those kids were so appreciative of this clothing.”

Havens is already working toward the 2020 coat drive, which will begin in September. She is looking for anyone with gently used coats, coveralls, thermal underwear, wool socks, hats, gloves and mittens. There are also needs for fleece and heavy sweatshirts, boots and any other cold weather gear.

To contact Havens, send an email to tanglewoodweddings@yahoo.com or contact Jody Leonard at davenjody@earthlink.net.