Eagle Ottawa employees dedicate time and resources to Oakland Family Services' Children's Learning Center

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Eagle Ottawa employees do more than manufacture automotive leather products. Many can be found at Oakland Family Services organizing and volunteering at events that have brought laughter and joy to kids in the Children's Learning Center in Pontiac.

Employees in the company's Rochester Hills office have sponsored four large events - a field day, a book drive, and two activity days. They also passed out books at the Hot Dogs with Dad event this year. Sara Betker, product administrative assistant at Eagle Ottawa, said she learned about Oakland Family Services through the United Way of Southeastern Michigan's website.

"OFS works with people who need help -- that hits home with me," Betker said. "I've been unemployed and my husband was going to be laid off when we had two kids and a baby on the way in 2009. Times were bad. I'm ready to give back now. I'm happy this agency is out there if people need help getting back on their feet."

A group of employees first came to Oakland Family Services in March 2016 when they planned an activity day at the Children's Learning Center. Children rotated through different activities, making crafts, singing songs, and, of course, story time.

During the activity day, employees learned that some of the children don't have any books at home. That sparked them to initiate a book drive that collected more than $300 in books. At the June 2016 end-of-the-year picnic for the Children's Learning Center every child received two books. Teachers also received books for their classrooms.

At field day, employees looked like they were having nearly as much fun as the children as they jumped in sack races, twirled jump ropes, played tug of war and helped children master skills in basketball and other games. Not only did they plan and volunteer at the field day, they also donated two new tricycles, a basketball hoop and goody bags for the children.

"Hopefully we make a kid's day better," Betker said. "It doesn't have to be much, a smile, a joke.

"By being here, maybe the kids see us and will say 'One day I will have a job and have fun.' It's the best part of my job."

Valerie Mercadante, development and engagement coordinator at Oakland Family Services, said the agency is fortunate to have Eagle Ottawa work closely with the children enrolled in preschool and summer camp programs.

"Through their volunteer work they have made a real and lasting contribution to the agency's goals and direction," she said. "They have amazing ideas, are attentive to every detail and are extremely generous in donating not only their time, but their resources. I look forward to collaborating with Eagle Ottawa and their staff on future projects, and hope that this is only the beginning of an amazing partnership as we work together to build brighter futures for children in our community."

Oakland Family Services has a wealth of volunteer opportunities, not only for groups, but also for individuals. If you are interested in being part of building brighter futures, too, contact Valerie Mercadante at vmercadante@ofsfamily.org or (248) 858-7766, ext. 1218.