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Another summer comes to a close and a new school year begins. For you lucky ones not going back until after Labor Day…enjoy some sun for us! But no matter when you start back, we have a message for you:

You’ve Got This!

These military kids from our BTSB event at Fort Campbell are ready to go!

 

We also have another message: Thank you.

 

 

Thank you to our military families for joining us at our Back-to-School Brigade® events at more than 60 locations across the USA in July and August.  Getting to meet all of you is one of our greatest joys.  Seeing some of you again is like a get together with friends.

 

Back-to-School Brigade at JBER Alaska served 200 military children.

Our Mid-Atlantic Field Office welcomed 1,800 military children at their events…1,000 at Norfolk alone.

These smiles! Priceless!

Our TNKY Field Office served 1,000 military children at Fort Campbell, and another 250 at Fort Knox.

No better feeling in the world than to know you made a child smile.

 

Thank you to our national partners Dollar Tree and SAIC who have been steadfast supporters of military families through our Back-to-School Brigade program. Dollar Tree, our partner for 10 years, collected donated supplies at over 6,000 stores nationwide over the course of the program.

 

Dollar Tree staff came out to help at BTSB Norfolk.

 

Thanks to these amazing organizations, our program just keeps getting better and better.

 

SAIC volunteers in Kansas City stuffed more than 300 backpacks full of school supplies for military kids in the Kansas/Missouri area.

We would also like to thank all of the community organizations around the country that attended our events and brought information and resources to our military families.

Thank you to our volunteers.  These events require a ton of planning and man-hours, and you are the reason that we can host over 60 events nationwide to support thousands more families at bases from Maine to Alaska, Hawaii to Idaho, and everywhere in between.

 

Our volunteers make the magic happen. Here are some of our friends at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.

Volunteers of all ages helped out at our events, such as this family team from Colorado Springs, CO.

 

You can find all BTSB2018 albums on our Flickr page.  We are still receiving and uploading event images, so please check back if you do not see your even yet.

Get out those cameras and snap your best “Back-to-School” image because we still have more fun waiting. Our friends at Procter & Gamble invite you to celebrate the start of the school year by sending your child’s “First Day of School” photo for a chance to win a $150 Amazon Gift Card! Go to https://startstrongpg.com/firstday for details and official rules. Deadline to enter is Sept. 7. Thank you to our friends at Procter & Gamble for celebrating military kids!

Have a GREAT school year!

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Deb Mullinex (left) with our Director of Volunteers, Charlotte Merriam (middle) and volunteer captain, Meleeza Brown (left). Deb and Meleeza are both long term volunteers with Operation Homefront.

Giving, caring and sharing is at the heart of every Operation Homefront (OH) volunteer and Deb Mullinax is a great example of that generous spirit. Deb has been volunteering for OH for over 16 years, first as a Navy spouse in Norfolk, Virginia, and now as a team captain in Jacksonville, Florida. She plans to continue helping military families because she remembers what it was like for her as a military child.

“I saw my mother struggle with three kids being military,” Deb said.  “I knew what it was like for her, and I know it hasn’t changed.  Until my father made officer, it was really hard.”  Deb’s father retired from the Navy after 30 years.

In October, Deb’s husband, Max, also retired from the Navy as a master chief with 30 years of service, including 26 years of sea duty.  She and Max married in 1992, were stationed in Norfolk for over 20 years, and moved to Florida in 2012.

The next event Deb helps with will be the Back-to-School Brigade (BTSB).  Each summer, near military bases across the country, OH distributes backpacks filled with most of the school supplies military children need to succeed in school. The supplies are generously donated by OH partners, like Dollar Tree, whose customers support the program at thousands of stores nationwide.  Since 2008, OH’s BTSB program has distributed over 300,000 backpacks to military families, saving them money and hassle because they often face special challenges such as frequent relocations and deployments.

Deb adores seeing the kids’ faces light up.  But even more, “I like to see the look of the young parent that can’t afford to buy stuff,” she said.  “The relief of the sailors themselves. That’s my satisfaction.  And that’s my husband’s satisfaction.”

Deb said it’s even harder for today’s parents because schools give them a two-page list of items their kids are supposed to bring.  “If you have a family of three or four, you cannot do it on their budget,” Deb said.  “Their pay has not gone up much at all.”

When military families get transferred to a new base, they are only allowed to bring belongings weighing a certain amount, taking up a certain amount of space, so sometimes they must leave behind items such as backpacks and their contents, Deb said.

Junior enlisted families receive priority registering for BTSB, for children 5 and up.  Not wanting to leave out kids under 5, Deb put together sacks for little ones too young to receive a backpack, using drawstring bags donated by Whataburger and various items she had left over from previous collections.  “They were ecstatic over it,” she said.  “They got their own ‘backpack.’  They wanted their picture taken with it and everything.  That was awesome.”

In early July, Deb contacts Dollar Tree store managers to arrange supply pickups.  With 10 stores to collect from, Deb might drive 100 miles or more over two days, filling their truck, at personal expense.  The couple has learned to live with stacks and piles of donated goods temporarily stored at their home.  The night before the BTSB event, Deb and Max arrive at the rec center to set up tables and organize.

Deb often works with another long-time OH volunteer team captain, Meleeza Brown, an assistant manager at Navy Federal Credit Union.  “I love doing it,” said Meleeza, whose husband retired from the Navy 18 years ago as an E-6.  “I really love to give back to the military family.”

Meleeza will keep volunteering because she remembers tight budgets when her husband was an E-3.  “We’ve been there — I know how it is.”  She can relate because the Browns have three grown children.  “When it’s time for back to school, when you don’t have enough to buy everything the kids need … it’s kind of difficult.”

Deb and Meleeza also help recruit and train OH volunteers, and assist with other Operation Homefront programs, including Holiday Toy Drive and Holiday Meals for Military (HMFM), which provide toys and holiday meal ingredients to service members and their families.

“I see that E-1, E-2, E-3 parent … excited that they got either food or what they need for their kids’ supplies,” Deb said.  “Just to see the relief on the parent’s face — my kid’s going to get a bike, my kid’s going to get that basketball.  When they come to pick up a meal, they don’t care what’s in it — they have something. … That’s why I do it. This is my passion.”


Registration for 2018 Back-to-School Brigade is now open! Check out our Events page to see if there is a Back-to-School Brigade event in your area. If you don’t see an event, thanks to our partnership with Dollar Tree, free school supplies may be available through your local FRG or participating organization. Be sure to build and/or check your profile for new events. IMPORTANT: If you already have a registration profile built, please make sure all information is up-to-date, especially your child’s grade, before you register.

You can also help support our Back-to-School Brigade by donating school supplies at your local Dollar Tree or by donating to our current need, Help Provide Backpacks To Military Kids Across the U.S.

Thank You, Dollar Tree, for 10 years of supporting our Back-to-School Brigade!

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Guest blog from Bob McGowan, current member of our Board of Directors, and active volunteer for our Back-to-School Brigade

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Bob McGowan, current member of our Board of Directors, and active volunteer for our Back-to-School Brigade.

I am a former Marine who served for a few years at the tail end of the Vietnam War.  My Dad was a World War II Marine who was severely wounded in the battle of Okinawa. Both of my grandfathers served in World War I.

Growing up in the 50s and 60s, it seemed like every family had someone who had fought in WWII, Korea or was headed to Vietnam. As such, everyone knew a little about the price that had to be paid so we could enjoy our way of life.

Most of us have heard how so many on the “homefront” supported the war effort and our troops during WWII through bond drives, scrap collections, Victory gardens and USO events.  In fact, when I used to hear the word “homefront,” I would think of that era and how our nation rallied to support our troops.

Now when I think of that word, I think of Operation Homefront. Operation Homefront gives us an opportunity to connect with our troops and their families to show them that we really do appreciate what they do for us.

These days, with less than one half of one percent of our population serving in the Armed Services, I believe most Americans have lost touch with our troops and what hardships they endure.  Most Americans can’t imagine a six-week work project in a foreign land, let alone a six-month tour of duty with someone shooting at you!

McGowanBlog2I first got involved with Operation Homefront in 2008 when I worked for the company Airgas in Pittsburgh.  Airgas chose them as their Corporate Charity and encouraged all employees to get involved at the local level.  This was exactly what I was looking for, so I joined the Pennsylvania/Delaware/New Jersey field office as a volunteer where I could help out during the Back-To-School Brigade events and anything else that came our way.

The Back-to-School Brigade, where we provide free school supplies to military kids, is such a great time for volunteers to get personally involved and to get the opportunity to meet some of our service members and their families.  Dollar Tree has been a tremendous partner for many years and anyone who visits one of their stores will see posters about Operation Homefront displayed prominently.  I’ve picked up school supplies at many stores over the years and I always thank the managers and their staff for supporting our troops.

Helping to pack the backpacks or handing them to the kids while their parents look on is a heartwarming experience that will stay with you a long time.  Those families have more than enough going on in their lives. You can see the gratitude in their eyes.  I love to see when the parents encourage their kids to come up to the volunteers and thank them personally while the parents look on.  You can bet that every time they look at that backpack, they will remember where it came from.

I’m so proud to volunteer for Operation Homefront and love to see all the great things that we’ve done for military families over the years.  I have been very blessed to be a part of this organization and I am extremely proud of all the volunteers that have pitched in along the way.

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About 1Military 1Family: Back-to-School Brigade: 1Military 1Family is a national initiative that focuses on building stronger communities by welcoming new families and helping them successfully integrate into the neighborhoods, schools and businesses in their area. Learn more about the campaign and how to get involved at www.operationhomefront.net/1Mil1Fam

 

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In the weeks before Christmas, throughout this great land.

Our elves on the homefront were lending a hand…

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Holiday Meals were bagged up and stuffed

To give to the families we can’t thank enough…

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Wishes were granted and moments were shared

Letting military families know that all of us cared… 

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The smiles of the families and joy that abounded

Reminded us all of the mission we founded…

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To remember the many who serve so we remain free

Who won’t be home this year to decorate their tree… 

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We hope you are home soon and with loved ones so dear,

Merry Christmas to all, and a Happy New Year!

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Thank you for helping Operation Homefront build strong, stable, and secure military families – all year long.

Special thanks this year to

Dollar Tree, Walmart, BeamSuntory, Amazon, CDW, Loves Travel Stops and Country Store,

Thirty-One, Ocean Spray, Navy Federal Credit Union, Samuel Adams, RetailMeNot.

 

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givingtuesday-2“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

― Mother Teresa

Hang around the non- profit community long enough and you are sure to see a quote like this posted to a desk or on a social media page. Themes of Love, Service, Purpose. Quotes from famous people, scripture, letters from those touched by and had lives changed by the mission.

It’s easy to dismiss them as simple motivational tools, especially when it seems that needs are overwhelming and resources always scarce.  But there is a deeper reason why these phrases are common and enduring.

They are true.

There is a joy in giving, in lifting another up, in showing someone the goodness in others and themselves, at times when they can’t see a way through.

Today, on #GivingTuesday, charities, families, businesses, community centers, students and more will come together with one focus. Join in and be a part of a national movement of generosity. Whether it’s our mission or community food programs or clean water or curing disease, you can make a difference.  Here are some easy ways you can get involved on #GivingTuesday and throughout the year in Operation Homefront’s mission to support our nation’s military, veterans and wounded warrior families.

Make Some Noise. Tweet tweet! Our wonderful partners at the Home Depot Foundation are donating a dollar a tweet using #TeamDepot to @HomeDepotFdn  from Dec 3 until Dec. 31.  You’ll not only raise much needed funds (up to $100,000!), but also awareness of the challenges of our military families and wounded warriors. Follow us on Twitter at @Op_Homefront.

Click and Give.  Once again, Operation Homefront is honored to have been selected as one of 10 charities to receive a portion of a $200,000 gift from the CDW Corporation.  For a mouse click, you can help raise funds for our mission. Voting is open from now until Jan. 3,2014, and you can vote daily.

Don an Elf Hat and Donate a Toy for a Military Family: Between now and Dec. 6, you can donate a toy for our Holiday Toy Drive.  Toys will be distributed nationwide in the coming weeks at bases and towns across the country.

Encourage A Child: We all know them…the youngest patriots who didn’t choose to serve but make sacrifices of their own as part of a military family. They endure multiple moves, separations from loved ones and so much more on behalf of all of America’s kids. Take a moment and nominate a military kid to be considered for our Military Child of the Year award.  Just by being nominated, they will receive a certificate of appreciation from us.

Volunteer: Many of our events, such as Holiday Meals for Military and our Toy Drives, along with Back to School Brigade and other programs throughout the year rely on our community of volunteers to make it happen.  Connect up with your local Field Office to see how you can get involved in supporting military families in your community and other ways to get involved in our mission.

Support One of Our Current Needs: Emergency assistance requests have hit an all-time high this year, and it is only through the generous support of individuals, businesses and organizations that we are able to provide a measure of comfort and hope to those who have sacrificed so much for our freedoms.  We regularly post ongoing and current needs on our website.

Raise Awareness: Learn more about How We Help and our areas of focus: Relief, Recovery and Recognition.  Getting the word out that help is available and where to go will ensure that our military families and wounded warriors can focus on their missions and challenges.

Are you taking part in a #GivingTuesday event in your area?  Share in the comments.

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