06 September 2017






Big Rapids, MI - 9/6/17

The Salvation Army of Big Rapids helped students in 11 schools, start their school year off right. This year, through The Salvation Army's 'Tools for Schools' program, more than 1,400 local students will have new backpacks and school supplies on their first day of school. The backpacks and supplies were handed out during each schools 'back-2-school' events and open houses. Each student was given a choice of which backpack they wanted. The backpacks were made available to any K-5 students at no cost.

The Tools for Schools program, in it's second year, started as a partnership between The Salvation Army and Cargill Salt of Hersey, MI. In 2016, the program provided 260 backpacks filled with supplies to students of Evart Elementary school.
This year, organizers felt they could increase th amount of backpacks provided. "We felt, after last year's success, that the program had the capacity to serve a lot more students," said Chris Vallette, development director for The Salvation Army, "when we asked Cargill if they were interested in growing the ​program to serve multiple schools, they were all in!" In fact, Cargill Salt would play a major roll in the program's success, through providing over half of the funding, volunteering time to help pack and distribute backpacks, as wel as providing a team of employees to help in the planning stages.
With the additon of 10 schools, organizers knew that volunteer help would be needed. The response from th community was overwhelming! The plan was to have the backpacks and supplies sorted and packed over two consecutive days. The volunteers that arrived on the first day were able to complete the task in one afternoon. "The volunteers that helped us this year were phenomenal!", added Envoy Ed Hoskins, Salvation Army Corps Officer in Big Rapids, "without them, we are still packing backpacks today." In all, 220 volunteer hours were spent packing and distributing backpacks over a two week period.

Another key to the Tools for Schools program's success was it's corporate sponsors. Through partnerships with the Osceola County and Mecosta County Community Foundations, Staples, Big Rapids Radio Network, Wolverine World Wide, Big Rapids Products, United Way, and the Mecosta-Osceola Intermediate School District; Organizers were able to increase the amount of backpacks provided by 500%. "We could not have done this without the support of our corporate sponsors, they really rallied behind the cause.", added Vallette.

With the school year in full swing, organizers are going over what changes could be made to improve the program in the future. "There are some changes we could make to increase the number of students we help." adds Vallette, "We are continuously evaluating our programs to make sure we help as many people as we can."

If you would like to support The Salvation Army's Tools for Schools program, or any of our other programs and services, please contact our office at 231-796-5597. Thank you!

Tags: Big Rapids News