In January 2008, Army Captain Brian McCall requested support from his friends and family in the United States in providing needed school supplies to school children in his area of operations in Baghdad, Iraq.
The retired Army Colonel Gary LaGrange identified with McCall’s request and recalled how he took part in distributing school supplies to villagers when he was deployed to Vietnam.
Inspired by McCall’s request, LaGrange founded Help Us Learn…Give Us Hope (HUSGUS) to provide school supplies to children in Iraq and Afghanistan.
What began as a project Gary and his wife did in their basement, has grown into an organization that sends thousands of pounds of supplies to Iraq and Afghanistan each year. Initially supplies were sent to support 7 schools with 2500 children, but today hundreds of thousands of school supplies support more than 600,000 children.
The supplies are sent directly to deployed US military troops who then distribute the paper, backpacks, books, pencils, and other supplies to local schools, children and teachers.
Not only does this program enable the children of Iraq and Afghanistan to have a better future through access to basic educational resources, it is an example of powerful social justice work. The project has the incredible ability to engage international communities in positive relationships between deployed soldiers and the citizens in their area of operations.
At the same time, Gary is engaging others in service. Volunteers of all ages regularly meet to sort, pack and ship supplies. Community organizations across Kansas are spearheading collection drives for the school supplies. Individuals from local Boy Scout troops to veterans are uniting behind a shared cause, in part, because of the leadership and inspiration provided by Gary.