Gabrielle’s dilemma meant peace of mind for her mother, Rose. The school supplies for her children would be free this year. With three children in school, that meant she would save hundreds of dollars. In Hawaii, where the Navy family is currently stationed, the high cost of living makes the annual shopping trip a dreaded affair. Last year, the average family spent $606.40 on school supplies, clothes, shoes and electronics.
“This helps,” she simply said as she helped Gabrielle pick out supplies.
Gabrielle, along with other military children across the country, is heading to school this fall with brand new supplies thanks to the Back-to-School Brigade hosted by Operation Homefront chapters throughout the United States. During these events, military families receive free backpacks filled with school supplies for each of their children.
In 2010, the program raised over $2 million in school supplies nationwide through its partnership with Dollar Tree. Through the generosity of individual and corporate contributors, Operation Homefront provided 29,000 filled backpacks for children of military service members. This year, Office Depot and Lexmark developed a program to give printers to 4000 military families as well.
In Hawaii, the volunteer community team for Operation Homefront, received donations and help from local companies such as BAE Systems, Booz Allen Hamilton, Crossfit Oahu, Crossfit 808 and Hardass Fitness.
Military families across the island were excited for establishment of the Hawaii team, which will soon charter to become an official chapter of the organization. “This is a wonderful thing they do for the community,” said Army wife Erin McQuaig. Her husband is currently deployed and she said the backpack program not only saved her money, but also her time.
“This is very helpful,” McQuaig said. “It saved me a shopping trip.”
As 200 military children filed through the Hawaii event, Gabrielle made her backpack selections: green for her brother, blue for her sister and black for herself. She held the bags close to her chest and smiled as she headed out the door.
“I’m excited,” she said.
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There are still some Back-To-School Brigade events planned around the country, check for your local chapter to find an event near you. Or follow Operation Homefront on Facebook to get updates on other upcoming events for military families.