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Response to our 2019 Back-to-School® Brigade program was phenomenal. Read about how we are making a difference in the lives of military families, all thanks to our partners, volunteers and supporters like you:

Nearly 30 minutes before the start of Operation Homefront’s Back-to-School® Brigade (BTSB) event in San Antonio, a line of families started at the gym doors inside a local YMCA and snaked all the way out of the building.

Meanwhile, an army of volunteers, Operation Homefront employees and partners like Chobani and H-E-B made the necessary last-minute checks. The face painters were ready, the photo booth filled with props and more than 500 backpacks were stacked and ready to go.

The San Antonio event, which provided 500 backpacks, was one of nearly 100 BTSB events held across the nation throughout the summer. With the help of our corporate partners, donors and legions of volunteers, the events were estimated to provide over 40,000 kids with backpacks.

 

Volunteers from H-E-B helped make the day special for military families. Operation Homefront is proud to partner with H-E-B for BTSB as well as our Holiday Meal for Military program.

 

We were excited to host the team from Chobani at our San Antonio BTSB event. Chobani is donating $500,000 to help provide food for veterans and their families via Operation Homefront, and also matching donations—up to an additional $250,000!

Once the doors opened, the families filed through the gymnasium, gathering information on various resources from all the different booths and of course picking out a purple, pink, or clear backpack before leaving with smiling faces.

Good times!

 

 

The San Antonio event, which provided 500 backpacks, was one of nearly 100 BTSB events held across the nation throughout the summer. With the help of our corporate partners, donors and legions of volunteers, the events were estimated to provide over 40,000 kids with backpacks.

Sailor Natalie Larenas attended the event for the first time, bringing her two sons, one in fourth grade and the other a freshman in high school.

“I had no idea there would be so much stuff here,” she said. “There was a lot of things the kids could learn about, like PTSD and education resources.”

Having been in the Navy for the past 14 years, Natalie said she appreciates that there are donors who give to Operation Homefront to help military families.

“Thank you!” Natalie said. “The families who serve sacrifice a lot and when there is something like this, we feel appreciated. It’s really nice. I really appreciate this, especially with three kids. I get emotional because I have served so many years and sacrificed time, just being away from my family. That’s why this is so nice. It tells me that we are appreciated too.”

From L-R, clockwise: An OH volunteer and service member at the BTSB event in Colorado Springs, CO; OH CEO John Pray (second from left) volunteers at the BTSB event in Clarksville, TN; A soldier fills a backpack at the BTSB event at Camp Murray, Tacoma, WA; A boy gets his face painted at the BTSB event in Clarksville, TN.

Since BTSB began in 2008, more than 375,000 military children have been provided with backpacks filled with supplies, helping them have the tools they need to succeed for the school year. You can see photos from our events on our Flickr page.

Operation Homefront Program Coordinator Rebekah Reyes said the Alamo City event could not have happened without the volunteers and partners. “I want to thank all of our donors and our volunteers who came out to support”,” Rebekah said. “(At the event), we had about 150 volunteers help us from the set up to clean up. They really helped make the event run smoothly.”

Team work makes the dream work.

Cathy Toyoda was one of those volunteers. She’s been volunteering with Operation Homefront for more than two years, currently in the donations department but has helped at several BTSB events.

“You know, military families, most of them, are on a tight budget, and buying school supplies is very costly,” she said. “It’s wonderful that people donate to this (Back-to-School Brigade) event by giving all the school supplies and the back packs and it’s really wonderful to give them away to people who need them.”

Cathy Toyoda has been volunteering with Operation Homefront for more than two years. It’s wonderful that people donate to this (Back-to-School Brigade) event.”

Talia Farrell was at BTSB for the first time. She and her husband Troy, who is in the Air Force, brought their two kids, Jordan and Jayda, in kindergarten and third grade respectively. She said the kids had a great time and the family was surprised at all the goodies. She hopes to return in the future.

This was Talia’s family’s first time at BTSB. This is beyond our wildest dreams. We truly appreciate it. This is something we all benefit from and it’s very, very necessary.”

“This is a great opportunity for military families,” Talia said. “This is beyond our wildest dreams. We truly appreciate it. This is something we all benefit from and it’s very, very necessary.

Back-to-School Brigade 2019 has concluded, but we have many more opportunities for military families in the coming months. Keep an eye on our events page for when registrations open.  If you would like to get involved as a volunteer, this page has everything you need to get started,

Chobani has been an incredible supporter of Operation Homefront’s mission. Chobani is donating $500,000 to help provide food for veterans and their families. And for every dollar you donate, Chobani will match your donation—up to an additional $250,000.

Finally, a special thanks to our national sponsors, Dollar Tree and SAIC, for their ongoing support of Back-to-School Brigade and many other Operation Homefront programs.

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Today we are joined by guest blogger Steven Mahon, SAIC EVP, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary. Steven talks about his call to service and the call to service by SAIC Citizens.

Thirty-seven years ago, I made the decision to join the United States Army. I was resolute, but as a young man, I lacked the foresight of all the challenges that laid ahead, especially those that would arise as a husband and father.

Although many years have passed, the challenges of being a service member remain, especially in today’s world where our troops are frequently deployed and tasked with difficult, demanding, and dangerous work. We ask our service members to devote themselves to their mission and their duty to serving our nation, and they unwaveringly accept. However, there is a price to pay to answer the call of the nation. By asking for 100 percent of their focus on the mission, their duties as parents and spouses can’t always be a primary focus.

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Steven Mahon, SAIC EVP, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, and the SAIC Citizens at the Back-To-School Brigade event in Maryland.

Families are often geographically separated and this means that at times there never seems to be enough money for essentials like school supplies. As a young service member, I remember returning to the PX a modest birthday present I had purchased for my wife because we needed the cash for baby food and diapers instead — that was 28 years ago and I still remember how badly I felt about it.

I know that feeling reverberates throughout the Armed Forces, but organizations like SAIC and Operation Homefront are here to help. As an SAIC employee or “corporate citizen” as we say, my service to our country continues, most recently by volunteering with Operation Homefront as a member of its Board of Directors and by volunteering at events that build strong, stable and secure military families, such as distributing backpacks during their Back-To-School Brigade. Let’s face it, school supply shopping is stressful and expensive. Operation Homefront’s Back to School Brigade reduces that burden and financial hardship on military families by providing service members with pre-filled backpacks stuffed with commonly needed supplies. This reduces stress on families, frees up time, and saves a lot of money. For families with three, four, or more children, this is a big help!

saicbloggirlinpinkMy colleagues and I volunteered to stuff and hand deliver these backpacks to needy families, and we were thrilled to do it. The most rewarding sight was to see a young girl, dressed all in pink —including pink glasses — hugging her new pink backpack, with a huge smile on her face! We are proud to work for a company like SAIC that chooses to sponsor organizations like Operation Homefront because our support helps to reduce every day stresses on our military.

We at SAIC and Operation Homefront are honored to serve our military families by paying it forward, and we ask that you join us. Visit www.operationhomefront.net/answerthecall  for ways to help support the families of our service members and wounded warriors. SAIC Citizens will be volunteering across the country during this upcoming holiday season, and we hope to see you there!

 

 

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