BYRON CENTER, Mich. — While many students are back in school, most kids won’t be returning to the classroom until next week.
When they arrive, those facing financial constraints will prevent them from having the necessary supplies.
You may remember Denise Kooiker – the School Supply Santa – when FOX 17 introduced her last month as she was dropping off collection bins across Kent County.
On Tuesday, Santa’s helpers joined her for the big sorting party.
The project has been ongoing for seven years, growing each summer. It’s an effort to try to meet the needs of students who don’t have what’s necessary to get through a day in the classroom.
“Everything is through donations,” said Kooiker. “There were the physical donations of items and others who gave financially.”
The donations benefit eight school districts: Kelloggsville, Wyoming, Godfrey Lee, Godwin, Vista Charter Academy, Byron Center and Kentwood.
“We packed backpacks, we packed pencils and markers and dry erase markers and Kleenex and notebooks and folders and binders,” Kooiker said, “everything a child needs really to get through school.”
The districts that benefit from the School Supply Santa were chosen for specific reasons.
“Those schools are all based on reduced and free lunches, and that’s actually even how the giving is dispersed,” Kooiker said. “We keep it fair that way, so if one school’s at 80 percent and one school’s at 30, the one with 80 is obviously going to get a little more.”
On Wednesday, the School Supply Santa will make the deliveries to district administrators, who, along with the help of teachers, will hand out the supplies to those in need.
“We don’t realize there’s an extreme need right here, and just those simple things that aren’t that big are that big when they learn,” said Kooiker.
Kooiker says she is hoping to expand the reach of the School Supply Santa into other districts, but she needs help.
To learn more about Kooiker’s efforts, check out her Facebook page.