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Sheriff’s deputies provide backpacks, school supplies

Audra Gamble/The Holland Sentinel • Aug 29, 2018 at 1:00 PM

 HOLLAND TWP. — The night before the first day of school, parents at West Ottawa’s Pine Creek Elementary School got a surprise during open house night Monday, Aug. 27.

For those who needed them, no questions asked, students and parents found backpacks full of brand-new school supplies waiting for them in the school library.

Each of the nearly 100 backpacks — touting sparkly unicorns, doughnuts, camouflage dinosaurs and rocket ships — contained glue sticks, crayons, erasers, a ruler, notebooks, folders, a binder, scissors, pencils, colored pencils and a pencil box.

The backpacks were provided by the Ottawa County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, the union for animal control, corrections and court deputies. Funding for the backpacks comes each year from the annual OCDSA charity basketball game against former Detroit Lions players in May.

For the past three years, Deputy Bob Wittum and his wife have purchased the supplies and backpacks, then packed them with school supplies.

“Three years ago, we contacted West Ottawa and this school is in huge need, so we’ve kept doing this school every year,” Wittum said. “When we started doing the Lions game, we started passing around ideas about how to take that money back into the community, and it was so popular that we just kept doing it.”

Wittum works with teachers and administrators to purchase the supplies the kids need most, then watches the elementary students smile when they pick out their new backpacks.

In less than an hour, most of the backpacks had found new homes, resting on little shoulders. Parents met with deputies, Sheriff Steve Kempker and Undersheriff Val Weiss and asked questions while their students picked out backpacks.

“Our students are very aware of the haves and the have-nots here,” said Principal Krista Visser. “This is a judgment-free way of getting resources to those who need them. It takes the stress away from the kids, and now they can just worry about school.”

Of Pine Creek’s nearly 500 students, including preschoolers, around 20 percent of them were able to get fresh backpacks and supplies to start the school year off, including personally adjusted arm straps from the OCDSA members.

“From the perspective of giving back to the community, this is huge,” Kempker said. “It’s so obvious from the smiles on the kids’ faces and the ‘thank you’s’ from the parents. It shows that need is there. It’s all about building those relationships with the community.”

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