GREENVILLE — Imagine a knock on your door late one evening. You’re not expecting company. Men in uniform enter your home, along with official looking people in severe suits holding clipboards and asking questions you don’t really understand. You’re taken away by strangers, separated from your family. You don’t really know what’s going on, but people are yelling, crying, angry.
Now imagine you’re a child.
This scenario plays out all too often in Montcalm County as judges order children into foster care for a variety of reasons. The experience can be terrifying, particularly for younger children.
At least a few of the students at the Seiter Center in Greenville have found themselves in exactly that situation — which may explain why they chose a school project that would help put those displaced children a little more at ease on what, for many, will be the worst day of their lives.
The project began with two Montcalm Area Intermediate School District teachers, Kristen Larson and Amanda Foster, and a simple blanket-making activity. It was their students who came up with the idea of packing the blankets — along with a supply of “comfort items” and necessities — into backpacks with the intent of giving them to children removed from their homes by protective services.
Dubbed “Operation Backpack,” the effort has raised enough money and materials to provide 80 backpacks to the Montcalm County Department of Human Services, which will then distribute them to children in need.
“The kids wanted to make backpacks for the kids who are removed from their homes so they will have some items they need,” Foster said. “They made a personal blanket for each of them.”
To raise money for the project, students and staff sought both private and corporate donations, sold candy bars and held other fundraisers. In the end, around $1,800 was collected and used to buy items for the backpacks as well as the packs themselves. Things such as personal hygiene items and small plush toys also are included.
“The students will be delivering (the backpacks) to DHS on May 28,” Larson said. “This is personal for some of these kids, because they’ve been in foster care themselves.”
The project was made possible through contributions by the students and staff of the MAISD, Walmart, Montcalm Area Community College English students, Diversified Hospitality Solutions, Rochester Midland Corporation, VantagePointe Risk Management and Financial Group and many anonymous donations.