Students in need from each of the city's elementary schools were selected for the program.

COURTESY PHOTO: WASHINGTON COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE - Families in need in Cornelius got some help with their back-to-school shopping courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff's Office, Walmart and other sponsors.Thirty Cornelius students got quite a treat Saturday, Aug. 11 — backpacks and supplies for the upcoming school year, plus an opportunity to have a barbecue lunch with local first responders.

Deputies from the Washington County Sheriff's Office who serve Cornelius and firefighters from the Cornelius Fire Department teamed up with the City of Cornelius and the Cornelius Walmart store for the third annual "Backpacks and Snacks" event this past weekend.

Ten students from low-income households were invited from each of Cornelius' elementary schools — Cornelius and Echo Shaw elementaries, which are part of the Forest Grove School District, and Free Orchards Elementary, which is part of the Hillsboro School District.

"The schools identify the kids," explained Cornelius Police Chief Al Roque. "Families will oftentimes show up … with siblings and whatnot."

Each child received a backpack stuffed with school supplies purchased for him or her, along with a coat. Siblings got a bag with some goodies, too.

"This program helps our students get the basic materials they need to start the school year, while connecting with our friendly police officers," said Angella Graves, principal of Cornelius Elementary School, in a statement provided by the Sheriff's Office. "Not only are students set up for success academically, they also learn that our police officers are here to help them."

Families were subsequently invited to have lunch with deputies and firefighters. Staff grilled hot dogs and handed out cookies, chips and water.

"The children so enjoy the new school supplies," Cheryl Rice, an instructional assistant at Cornelius Elementary, stated. "They love interacting with the police officers and the picnic."

Those first impressions are important, Roque said.

"We get to interact with kids in kind of a non-crisis, non-confrontational kind of way," Roque said. "This is the first exposure that a child might have to a law enforcement officer, and it's a positive one, not a negative one."

Some kids even got their picture taken in a police cruiser or on a motorcycle, Roque added.

This is the first time Backpacks and Snacks has been held away from Cornelius' public safety building, which houses both deputies and firefighters serving the city.

Walmart was the main sponsor for the event.COURTESY PHOTO: WASHINGTON COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE - Cornelius Police Chief Al Roque and a deputy pose with children at Saturday's Backpacks and Snacks event outside Walmart.

By Mark Miller
Editor, Forest Grove News-Times
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