Officers with the Missaukee County Sheriff’s Department are now equipped with practical tools to comfort, distract, and make a positive connection with children thanks to Back Packs for Kids, a partnership of local churches and businesses initiated by Lake City (Michigan) Christian Reformed Church this past July.
“Our hope is to create a personal, positive experience with law enforcement for children and youth in situations that would typically be negative and traumatic,” said Jennifer Pugh, director of this ministry as well as Kids Hope at Lake City CRC. Pugh said this extension of the church’s previous outreach to children via mentoring and food relief grew out of a community leadership meeting in which the needs of local children were raised as a top concern.
She met with sheriff Jim Bosscher with the idea of providing activity packs for children with whom the sheriff’s department comes in contact, perhaps because a family member is injured or has died, or when an arrest is being made. Bosscher and his officers agreed. Pugh said an abundance of games, puzzles, books, snacks and hygiene items were donated by people from all over the county within 48 hours of getting to work on the project. Today the department puts backpacks for each of four age levels into every officer’s vehicle, the ambulances, and the sheriff’s department boats.
“The packs become tools through which children and youth feel the love of Christ at an unexpected and critical moment,” Pugh said.
From the officers’ perspective, the sheriff’s department said having the packs available has helped to calm children in a difficult moment or aid the officer to complete tasks on the scene while the child was distracted with something just for them.
Currently, nine area churches of multiple denominations and several businesses provide funds or goods that go into the packs. “Without the partnership, Back Packs for Kids wouldn’t exist because the need is too large for one average-sized church to handle on its own,” Pugh said.