OKLAHOMA CITY - Law enforcement agencies across the metro stepped up to help Oklahoma grandparents raising their grandchildren, specifically with those expensive school supplies.
Organizers say the help is needed since these grandparents are on a fixed income.
Brent Whitson says he never imagined at 57-years-old that he and his wife would be raising an 11-year-old on their own.
“I was going to retire early, but that kind of went up in smoke,” he said.
Whitson and his wife are sole caregivers for 11-year-old Cory, and most weekdays they also look after their other four grandkids.
“If we can make do with one slice of bread instead of two, sometimes we do that,” he added.
To help take a load off Whitson and other grandparents, the Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office, Oklahoma City Police Department, and other agencies are joining forces with Sunbeam Family Services to hand out backpacks.
11-year-old Zavinna is going into fifth grade.
“I get to meet new friends,” she says with a giggle.
Zavinna went home with brand new sneakers, and the invaluable feeling of knowing someone cares.
“It takes a village to raise a child,” Major Ron Bacy, with the Oklahoma City Police Department, told News 4. “We're a part of that village.”
These officers and deputies are showing there is so much more to them than a badge and gun.
“They go above and beyond, so many of them actually sponsor a child,” said Sheryl Presley, TRIAD coordinator with the Oklahoma City Police Department. “They'll give money out of their own pockets. They truly want to be here and serve our community.
They’re serving grandparents who are left raising babies for a second, and in some cases, a third time. At the heart of it all, these families are making the most of a difficult situation.
“You know there's something about getting a bunch of kids together and saying we're here for you,” said Sunbeam's Caregiver Fundamental Program Manager.
This was the first year New Song Church participated in the back-to-school event. They provided the new sneakers and school uniforms.
In all, 160 grand-families and nearly 400 kids were helped.
Oklahoma now ranks seventh in the nation for the number of grandparents raising grandchildren.
Just last year, we held the number two spot.