April 24, 2024

Giving a helping hand

PCM senior collects school supplies for those in need in the community

Me, We, Do, Serve. Those are the four tenets PCM senior Blake Van Der Kamp learned at the FFA Washington Leadership Conference in July and the driving force behind him starting his own community service project as soon as he got home.

Van Der Kamp was the first Diamond Trail FFA member to attend the conference, which was held in Washington D.C. After learning about the four tenets he become motivated to try to make a difference in his own communities.

“I started the School Supplies Drive because of the experiences I had at the FFA Washington Leadership Conference,” Van Der Kamp said. “Building upon each of these four tenets gets students to the overall objective of the conference which is becoming an engaged citizen who can make a measurable positive difference in their community.”

He said the conference taught him about his impact on the world and problems that currently exist within it.

“One thing that stuck with me particularly was the fact that poverty was often linked to someone’s level of education,” Van Der Kamp said. “I was also appalled by the fact that us doing nothing is part of the problem because by doing nothing we are letting another child starve, another student drop out and another family become impoverished.”

It was at the conference he decided to dedicate his Living to Serve Plan, a required element of the conference, to providing school supplies to those in need.

“I knew that my efforts weren’t going to change the entire world, but I did hope that my efforts here would spark others to change their communities,” Van Der Kamp said. “I also hoped that this might make the PCM community that much happier and better for the people who live here.”

Although he started out with little to no foundation on how to collect school supplies and “only a dream and some notes on paper,” Van Der Kamp soon found social media as the way to spread the word about his efforts. From there, it developed into a larger project that involved local businesses including Prairie Escape Wellness Center, setting up a booth at the Prairie City Farmers’ Market and collecting donations for the PCM Clothing Closet and PCM Food Pantry.

“I guess it began by me planning on just picking up supplies from people’s doorsteps, but it had evolved to me having collection boxes in a multitude of spots,” Van Der Kamp said.

The donations came in all shapes and sizes, from new sets of pens and pencils to gently used supplies.

“What I loved more than the brand new school supplies was the old and used ones. While these are the nicest for those in need, they do have a great message none-the-less,” Van Der Kamp said. “It helps our community recycle the old supplies and give them a new life with another child. This ensures that the project can not only help those by providing supplies to those less fortunate so that may receive a quality education, but it also allows the community to engage in recycling and become an environmentally conscious community.”

Recycling is also another passion of Van Der Kamp, who started the recycling program at PCM High School last year.

With supplies in hand, the job of sorting and distributing the goods now falls to Van Der Kamp. To get them to those in need, he has decided to sort them into three sections, K-5, 6-8 and 9-12 and load them into backpacks. The backpacks can be picked up at the PCM Food Pantry or PCM Clothing Closet or by contacting Van Der Kamp.

“Without a doubt, the response has been positive,” Van Der Kamp said. “To put it simply, I wanted to finally make a difference. We often complain about the world being a horrible and dark place, but we rarely take action to make it a brighter tomorrow.”

Contact Jamee A. Pierson at 641-792-3121 ext. 6534 or jpierson@newtondailynews.com