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Community prepares free school supplies

28th Public Affairs Detachment

Published: 03:20PM August 16th, 2012
Community prepares free school supplies

Sgt. Ashley M. Outler

Lisa M. Balda, a volunteer with Operation Homefront, stuffs school supplies into backpacks to be delivered to military families as part of Operation Homefront.

TACOMA, Wash. — More than 800 bloated backpacks filled with school supplies are awaiting delivery to military families from Joint Base Lewis-McChord thanks to the support, effort and compassion of community members who contributed to Operation Homefront’s ‘Back-to-School Brigade’ program.

“This project is a wonderful way to show military families that there are people who are passionate about helping them,” said Stephanie Martinez, manager of the Operation Homefront program in Lakewood. “It also builds those bonds between people in the military and people in the community.”

More than 45 volunteers worked together to fill hundreds of backpacks with of a variety of school supplies at a storage facility in Tacoma, Saturday.

“The backpacks are full of supplies that most schools require along with other items that aren’t but will still be used,” said Martinez who is also a teacher at Sherwood Forrest Elementary School. “I hope that the kids are really surprised, excited and happy that we could fill them so big.”

The supplies were the culmination of donations collected through local Dollar Tree stores for about a month. This year’s program received more donations than the Lakewood program has ever seen, said Martinez.

“I think it’s very beneficial, a lot of enlisted Soldiers can’t afford all these supplies. The school lists are so long every year and some of this stuff is expensive,” said Rebecca D. Walsh, a volunteer with Operation Homefront. “It’s just overwhelming the support that this program got.”

Volunteers included service members, military families, Department of Defense civilians and other caring members of the community.

“It’s amazing because we have a lot of support from the (military) community that we are giving to and we also have a lot of support from the (local) community that gave to this project,” said Martinez whose husband is currently deployed.

Military families who met certain criteria and have already registered through Operation Homefront will receive the backpacks Aug 19.

“Their eyes just light up and they get so excited to get new stuff,” said Spc. Heather E. Brinegar, who is on her second year volunteering with Operation Homefront and is a dental assistant assigned to the 62nd Medical Brigade. “I love helping the kids and this is an awesome opportunity to show other Soldiers that we care.”

The JBLM area is just one of six Washington communities that participate in the Back-to-School Brigade program.

“I think the Soldiers are very receptive and thankful. They see that the community loves them and that motivates them,” said Operation Homefront volunteer Master Sgt. Osmil C. Sazon, noncommissioned officer in charge of the pharmacy at Madigan Army Medical Center. “America is a strong country because we take care of one another.”

For more information regarding the Back-to-School Brigade program, Operation Homefront, or to get involved call 206-300-0893 and check out the website at http://www.operationhomefront.net/washington/default.aspx.