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Gier Elementary School students pose with their backpacks. Scott McClallen/Collegian
Gier Ele­mentary School stu­dents pose with their back­packs.
Scott McClallen/Collegian

The Hillsdale Police Department joined forces with the Jonesville Walmart location to provide Gier Ele­mentary School stu­dents 12 new back­packs.

Every year, the Hillsdale Police Department par­tic­i­pates in a charity event. Past events include stuffing busses, pro­viding bins to collect winter jackets, and col­lecting money for the Sal­vation Army or Red Cross.

“The police force enjoys banding together to serve the com­munity. Last year we did ‘no shave November’ and raised a con­sid­erable amount. This year we left a con­tainer at dis­patch for officers to dump change into when returning from lunch,” Hillsdale Police Chief Scott Hephner said.

The Hillsdale Police con­tacted local schools to gauge com­patible needs. Hephner called Gier Ele­mentary School Prin­cipal Laurie VanOrman, who requested back­packs.

“Chief Hephner details our emer­gency safety plans for Gier Ele­mentary, so he’s no stranger to the staff or the kids. We receive dona­tions a few times a year, but few are con­sid­erate enough to call ahead and assess spe­cific needs,” VanOrman said.

VanOrman actively inte­grates vol­un­teers into Gier, such as the Hillsdale College football team, and is working with senior Vic­toria Fasset to start a ‘big brother and sister’ program.

VanOrman talked to nearly every student in order for the police force to best determine how it could help Gier Ele­mentary School.

“Our school has 465 stu­dents and is still growing. Some­times the parents ask for back­packs, but it’s usually the kids who know their needs the best,” VanOrman said. “Whether they can’t afford it or they lost it from a recent move, a backpack is the most basic school utensil.”

Hillsdale’s police officers are actively inte­grated into the com­munity helpers, seeking to meet the needs of its members on a daily basis.

“The officers work for the town in addition to indi­vidual charity work, but we always raise more when we col­lab­orate,” Hephner said. “Small amounts add up, and then we just find and meet needs.”

Hephner con­tacted Gale Fix, store manager of the Jonesville Walmart location, about their mission, and she agreed to dis­count the back­packs for half-price and double the number to 12.

“We always try to give back to the com­munity. Chief Hephner told me the amount raised and what it was going toward, so I dis­counted the back­packs,” Fix said. “Charity breeds charity.”

While this was a one-time pur­chase for Walmart and the Hillsdale police, Prin­cipal VanOrman will see its impact everyday for the rest of the school year.

“The expres­sions of the kids when they received the back­packs paid for them­selves twofold.” VanOrman said.