Update 2003 Total slippers shipped national apx 40,000 since 1997
2002 Christmas in Korea recieved 900 pair in Nov./Dec.
#8 has grown to apx 70 crafters participating as time allows in 8 western states, joining the several hundred crafters from around the US
3 new chapters open in spring 2003
The Olympian Article
Knitters craft slippers for military abroad
Operation Toasty Toes has about 20 volunteers in region
Mrs. Humphries' Operation Toasty Toes sock and slipper project is aimed at keeping soldiers warm while they serve the country. Her Mason County group is one of dozens nationwide who knit slippers to send to U.S. troops.
MILDRED KAVANAUGH FOR THE OLYMPIAN
SHELTON -- One day while Shellie searched for knitting patterns on the Internet, she accidentally came across an intriguing Web site called Operation Toasty Toes, an organization dedicated to warming the heart and "sole" of military personnel who are stationed abroad.
Operation Toasty Toes volunteers knit or crochet slipper socks and mail them to military units to distribute.
Shellie, who coordinates the Western Chapter of Toasty Toes, says the organization provides a meaningful project for knitters and crocheters to craft slippers for men and women serving in the military. Knitters use an official pattern, and each pair of slippers is inspected for quality and uniformity.
"Crafting Toasty Toes is a way of letting service members know we're thinking about them and supporting their efforts," She said. "Currently we're sending Toasty Toes to the Afghanistan area."
About 20 people work on the project with her, and interest has picked up since Sept. 11, she said.
Each pair of slipper socks is tied together with a piece of yarn that includes the Toasty Toes logo -- a smiling dog named Rusty sitting on his haunches and holding a pair of slippers in his mouth. Knitters place their name and mailing address on the tag so that military personnel who want to can correspond with them. Thank you notes and pictures come pouring in, sometimes from high-ranking officers. Slipper crafters share their letters and photos with each other online. One online photo shows a military unit dressed in full uniform except for their shoes. Members of the crew are all wearing Toasty Toes slippers, Shellie said.
"The letters can be quite touching. Some of the guys have never been so far away from home before and are deployed to areas where they may not come back," she said. One knitter received a thank you from an appreciative sailor who said his only Christmas gift was a pair of Toasty Toes.
"Letters of thanks are what keeps the knitters going," Humphries said.
She said one reason Toasty Toes are so well received onboard ships is that the walls and floors are cold because they take on the water temperature.
Even though thousands of handcrafted Toasty Toes slippers have been mailed to men and women serving in the military, there are thousands more who have yet to receive their slipper socks. Many Toasty Toes crafters are senior citizens living on limited incomes. Humphries says crafters often complain that they would like to knit or crochet more slipper socks, but they can't afford the yarn.
Humphries hopes to recruit more volunteers who like to knit and crochet. Donations of yarn and shipping materials would also be appreciated. The last box of slipper socks mailed cost her $30.
The founder of Operation Toasty Toes is Irene Silliman, a 77-year-old Ohio grandmother. Her grandson, who was stationed on the USS Carney, complained that the ship's floors were cold, and he asked her to knit slippers for him and a few of his friends. Instead of knitting slipper socks for just her grandson and his friends, Silliman enlisted her friends, and they began the task of knitting slipper socks for the entire crew of 350.
That was in 1997. Silliman and her friends continued knitting, and the project turned into a national organization. At last count, more than 20,000 pairs of slipper socks have been mailed to the military
Silliman says her goal is to send each member of the military who serves overseas a pair of slipper socks, especially those in harm's way. In a recent news story, Silliman was quoted as saying, "We're too old to get out there and fight. So we fight with knitting needles."
Mildred Kavanaugh is a corespondent for The Olympian.