by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL The Kent County Sheriff Department, in collaboration with the Wolverine Worldwide YMCA and Devos Children’s Hospital Safe Kids Coalition, conducted a bicycle give-a-way and safety event for 29 area children on Tuesday, August 28. Making it all possible were 29 new or gently used bikes that had come into the possession of the Kent County Sheriff Department. Bikes needing repair were completely refurbished to safe operating conditions by Kent County Jail inmates. “The inmates take a great sense of pride and ownership by playing a part in this worthwhile program,” said Sheriff Larry Stelma who was on hand for the give-a-way event. “It’s a win-win for everyone involved today including the inmates.” “The 29 children chosen to be recipients of the bikes had been identified by the Wolverine Worldwide YMCA as area kids who lack the financial means to afford a bicycle,” said Toni Szczepanski, Volunteer and Community Outreach Coordinator for the Rockford area YMCA. Thrilled kids received an age appropriate bicycle that had been previously tagged for them, and them alone. Before they were allowed to test-drive their bikes around the parking lot, the kids had a sit-down bike safety lesson. After which, each was personally fitted with a brand-new bicycle helmet provided by Devos Children’s Hospital Safe Kids Coalition. Personally attending to that task was Amy Horn, the hospital’s Safe Kids Program Assistant. With helmet in place, each kid on his new ride headed through a mock riding course, complete with orange cones, which had previously been set up by Sheriff Deputies. Also on hand were two Deputies and their beautiful chestnut horses from the Kent County Sheriff’s Mounted Unit. For some of the kids (Sienna Gorby, 8, in particular) the horses were the highlight of the day. “Today’s presentation was but one of many community service and outreach events provided by the Kent County Sheriff Department every year,” said Sheriff Stelma. As the afternoon’s festivities drew to a close, the new bicycle owners loaded the bikes up to return home for many years of out-of-doors riding pleasure. Enjoy kids, and to quote Roy Rogers (and Fred Meijer) “Happy trails to you”.
Kent County Sheriff Larry Stelma
by BETH ALTENA An abandoned 100-year-old barn in Rockford—now renovated and rebuilt to house eight horses, equipment and feed—is just the first phase of the Kent County Sheriff’s Mounted Division complex. On Thursday, Nov. 17, a crowd of city and county officials and the public heard what to expect within the next year for a compound that will include a public observation area, classrooms, an indoor arena, a stable for over a dozen horses, a training obstacle course and wooded riding trails. Kent County Sheriff Larry Stelma spoke before onlookers in the chilly air of the structure, describing the funding of the training center and home of the mounted unit as an example of public and private partnership. The house, barn and 30-plus-acre property at 4687 Kroes Street (east of Rockford High School) were donated to Kent County in the 1990s. Stelma, who initiated the creation of the county’s mounted law enforcement unit in 2005, called the creation of the division another example of multi-jurisdiction cooperation. “It was very evident no one agency could fund a mounted division,” Stelma explained. Housed at the Kent County Honor Camp, the division became homeless in January of this year. “When Camp O’Mally closed, that closed the mounted division,” Stelma explained. Sixth months ago Roger Sabine, director of the Kent County Parks and Recreation Department, invited members of the sheriff’s department to walk through the property as a possible new home for the equine law enforcement unit. “When we walked around the property, we were sort of breathless,” Stelma said of his officers’ reaction to the proposal. Today the division proudly calls Rockford home and has a bright, exciting vision for the future of the unit. “This goes way beyond law enforcement,” said Chad Wieber, project advisor. Wieber was put in charge of development of the mounted unit in September two years ago when it became clear that the duties were too much to incorporate into those of the Kent County Sheriff’s Department (KCSD) Traffic Division. “Our outreach will be outstanding and go beyond search and rescue,” said Wieber, adding that the training center will “certainly be an important facility,” with an indoor arena that will be available for high school equestrian teams. He said the classrooms, stables and […]