Van Buren Co. man, co-workers provide back to school shopping for local families

Bobby Walker (center) and several of his co-workers at Palisades, are providing back to school shopping for local families.

VAN BUREN COUNTY, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - A Van Buren County man has been helping families in need head back to school for decades, buying clothing and classroom supplies for those who might otherwise go without.

Now, he's expanding his reach, and inviting his co-workers along.

It all started when Bobby Walker met a mother and her children living out of their car, in a Wal-Mart parking lot.

The mom was forced to choose bewteen paying the electric bill and buying school supplies.

It's a decision that Walker says he felt no parent should ever have to make.

For 7-year-old Autumn Leadingham, the perfect back to school outfit is one of the most important decisions she'll make all year.

While Autumn shops, preparing for her big day, her mom Kariann Johnson is by her side, dreaming big for her family as well.

"This opportunity means the world to us, because right now we are kind of saving up to get a place of our own, and I wasn't really sure how I was going to be able to take her back to school shopping," Johnson said.

The mommy-daughter duo is one of 6 families from all over Van Buren County that are back to school shopping at the Target in Portage--all thanks to Palisades.

"It's exciting, it's like being in a candy store with so much to choose from," said Bobby Walker, with the Mechanical Maintenance department, at Palisades.

Walker has been buying kids back to school clothes for years.

"When I was in the third grade, the school that I was going to purchased school clothes for me, and what a big difference it made in my life," he said.

Now, he's opening the invitation to his power plant employees, in hopes of reaching more families.

The company says they're all about giving back.

"We have never really gotten this close to families in terms of providing funds for them," said Eddie Polk, a senior maintenance planner, at Palisades. "When you work for a company that shares the same values and goes beyond the business part of it in the community...I love it."

And the families love it too.

"It's really special to me and my mom," Autumn said.

"There's nothing like the feeling of being able to do it yourself, to be able to come and go shopping with your child," Johnson said. "It took a lot of stress off my shoulders."

The day was all about making dreams--young and old--come true. It's a tradition that is sure to be around for many years to come.

"We're doing it again next year, and the next year, and the next year," Walker said.

Palisades gave each student $150 to buy clothes--with some of the employees even making personal donations.

Target, in Portage, helped out as well.

On top of that, students are also receiving school supplies as well.

They say they're already looking forward to the event again next year.

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