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LAKEWOOD, Wash. Back-to-school preparation can be an unavoidable strain on families who will pay an average of $95 per child this year on school supplies alone, according to the National Retail Federation.
Seeking relief from this financial burden, more than 800 military kids and their families lined a sidewalk in front of Clover Park Technical College in Lakewood Sunday to receive free backpacks filled with school supplies.
Not everyone can afford all these supplies, said Spc. Isabel Acosta, a supply specialist, assigned to the 585th Engineer Company at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. This helps out a lot, especially since I have four kids and Im the only one working.
The backpack distribution was the conclusion of Operation Homefronts Back-to-School Brigade, an annual program that collects donations from the local community through Dollar Tree stores and gives them to qualified military families.
It shows that there is somebody out there who cares, said Jessica Garner, an Army spouse who received supplies for her kindergartner. Im sure there is a couple hundred dollars worth of stuff in there so it was a big stress reliever.
To be qualified for a backpack, service members had to be active duty, activated reserve or activated National Guard, with a pay grade of E-1 through E-6 and have school-age children. Some veterans were also eligible.
The backpack donations not only relieved the financial strain of purchasing school supplies but also alleviated the stress of shopping, Garner said.
It gives them peace of mind and also a good feeling that they are starting off the school year on the right foot, Stephanie Martinez, elementary school teacher and manager of the Operation Homefront program in Lakewood, said.
About 40 volunteers including service members, military families and other members of the community came out to help pass out donations.
Its great because Ive got to see how much support the community gives for Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Martinez said. Its been amazing to see all the kids and how happy they are.
After receiving backpacks, families were able to go through and pickup additional supplies if they wanted.
I want to say thank you to all those who helped, said April Brenay after receiving a backpack for her sons first year of school. This is a blessing for our family. Thank you for getting him excited and wanting to go to school.