This is a shot from the video preview of the Aug. 9, 2018, Allegan County News featuring editor Ryan Lewis with Sallie Chilla, with Dan Chilla State Farm Insurance in Allegan, showing several of the backpacks that will be given away. (Video by Ryan Lewis)

Backpack giveaways inspired by thank-yous

By: 
Virginia Ransbottom, Staff Writer

It’s time to start shopping for students’ school needs; however, there are many families who can’t afford them.

That’s why a couple of friends are busy stuffing backpacks for a giveaway that will start out the school year right.

In the parking lot of Dan Chilla’s State Farm office, 424 Western Ave., Allegan, on Monday, Aug. 13, at 10 a.m., 50 backpacks are being given away, first come, first served.

State Farm office manager Holly Adrianson said the backpacks are geared for elementary students and come with a notebook and shoebox full of crayons, glue sticks, pencils and more.

“There’s boy bags, girl bags and neutral bags,” Adrianson said. “They come with what’s necessary and are a smaller size for elementary children.”

Adrianson was inspired to offer free backpacks last year by her pal Sheinah Hamstra who drew names in a live Facebook video to name the winners. After announcing on such Facebook sites as Allegan and Otsego’s online garage sales, 400 names were posted to enter the contest. With $200 of her own money, only five families were chosen.

 “After shopping for backpacks I got a really good deal and had some money left over so I added some Payless gift cards for parents to buy their children new shoes,” said Hamstra who works with Chrysalis Home Health Services. “I called one of the moms that won and let her know her daughter’s bag was ready to be dropped off and I was there in 30 minutes.

“As I explained that all her supplies were in the bag along with a gift card for Payless to go towards some nice shoes for her daughter, mom’s eyes welled up with tears and she asked if she could give me a hug.”

When Adrianson helped as secretary for drawing and delivering backpacks, she was also inspired and opened her wallet to provide 20 backpacks for those who started school without one.

This year, Adrianson’s employer Dan Chilla stepped up to sponsor giving away 50 backpacks and Hamstra is also raising the bar—to 500—which will be given away when a safe location is found to distribute them. She’s worried about causing a traffic jam but will post a location at www. facebook.com/sheinahhamstra.

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