Growing up in public housing, Christy Avilla and her brother and sister didn’t have much. Secondhand toys and hand-me-down clothes from aunties and uncles and neighbors were a saving grace. So while their upbringing was tough, they always had what they needed.
These days, Avilla is a police officer with Honolulu Police Department and a member of the Hawaii Air National Guard with the 154th Security Forces Squadron. In her spare time, she volunteers with the Slippah Foundation to assist keiki in need by helping gather donations of slippers and other goods.
The Slippah Foundation was created in 2005 by Avilla’s mother, Lynn Vasquez.
“(My mother) started realizing that the kids who were running around and playing in Mayor Wright Housing didn’t have any slippers,” Avilla explains. “She started asking people for donations, and just by word of mouth this small little organization turned into this thing where the community is involved …
Everything that we collect is from the community.”
The Slippah Foundation is a nonprofit that donates toys, clothes, canned foods and, of course, slippers to children and families in need. It started out by providing goods to Mayor Wright Housing and has since expanded its donations to other housing facilities and homeless shelters.
Avilla has been volunteering with the project since its inception, helping to gather goods. Once a year, she returns to Mayor Wright Housing for the annual Slippah Christmas Celebration, during which the group distributes slippers and more to the residents. This year’s event will take place Dec. 21.
“(My mother) having this idea of helping out the children where we lived in Mayor Wright Housing was close to my heart,” Avilla says.
Avilla also volunteers with other charitable organizations, including the Special Olympics and Toys for Tots. While driving around on duty, Avilla also keeps a stash of clothes in her patrol car, just in case she runs into somebody who needs them. Avilla credits her altruistic spirit to her mother, whom she says instilled in her a love for helping others.
There is one experience in particular that sticks out in Avilla’s mind. During the Slippah Foundation’s second Slippah Christmas Celebration, Avilla was on site distributing donations. As a large crowd gathered, a little girl got pushed out of the way and started to cry. Avilla picked her up, and when she did, she noticed that the girl didn’t have any shoes on.
“And I was just (thinking), ‘Oh my goodness, this child lives in America and does not even have the basic needs,’” Avilla recalls.
While it’s a sad memory, it’s also a source of motivation. “It reminds me every year to keep doing it, and to volunteer on my own time,” she says.
For more information about the Slippah Foundation and to donate, visit slippah.org or call Lynn at 847-2221.