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'They looked ecstatic!' | Kent County church group surprises teachers with gift

South Harbor Serves reached out to businesses around Byron Center to see if they would be willing to donate snacks and coupons to give to high school teachers.

BYRON CENTER, Mich. — Teaching children is an important and increasingly difficult job. According to the 2022 Merrimack College Teacher survey, teachers are feeling under-appreciated. A whopping 44% of teachers say they're very/fairly likely to leave the profession in the next two years.

But a church group in southern Kent County is working to make sure their local teachers do feel appreciated.

South Harbor Church is home to a group called South Harbor Serves. It's a crew of people who like to volunteer, and each month they set out on a new community service project.

"We've been looking for a way to express our appreciation to the Byron Center High School teachers. We've been kicking it around for a long time. What can we do?" said Sheila Pasma.

"What if we just try to get community support and go around and see if we can have local businesses help create some sort of gift bag?"

Robert Pasma and Molly Dollahan-Gortsema reached out to those businesses and they were able to get snacks and coupons donated to stuff those bags with. Members of South Harbor Serves also contributed financially to the effort.

"It was really satisfying to see that it all came through. We had never done anything quite like that before. It was a really unique project for us," Molly said.

"It was just really touching, and sometimes really surprising. We wrote thank you notes to each and every business owner."

Participating businesses include:

  • Costco - Wyoming
  • The Boxed Water Company
  • Chick-fil-A  at 54th & 131
  • Byron Center Meats
  • Full Circle Coffee
  • Culver’s on 84th Street
  • Tommy’s Car Wash
  • Dunkin’ Donuts Byron Center
  • McDonald's Byron Center
  • Biggby - Wyoming
  • Starbucks - 84th st
  • Starbucks - Metro
  • Mineo’s Pizza - Byron Center
  • Peppino's Pizza - Byron Center
  • Boardwalk Subs - Byron Center

From there, members of the group got together for a pizza party to stuff the gift bags. 

"And then we loaded everything up into two cars, filled them to the brim. And then the next morning, two of the members of the group delivered them," Robert said.

"We saw some photographs. They looked pretty ecstatic, so it was good."

Credit: South Harbor Church

Byron Center principal Scott Joseph, who also attends South Harbor Church, says the gift bags were a wonderful surprise for the teachers.

"There are many hard days in teaching, and our staff works extremely hard to take care of all of our students. So many of them are selfless and give each day because they have a heart for our kids, but when they become the recipients of random acts of kindness, it’s fun to see the surprised look on their faces," he said in a written statement to 13 On Your Side.

"It's nice to know we have people rooting for us, even on days we may feel like we are losing. I’m especially grateful for the individuals who took time out of their days to think about this, organize this endeavor, and execute it so successfully. Their kindness and heart is so appreciated. I hope that their acts of kindness ignite a similar idea in another building or district to show our educators that what they do matters!"

The group is now focusing its efforts on its February project. They'll be serving dinner to families at the Renucci Hospitality House in Grand Rapids, where families can stay when their loved ones are coming from out of town to have medical procedures done.

"Everyone has gifts and talents, and just serving is such a good way to use your gifts and talents, and there are so many different ways to help," Sheila said.

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