Operation Homefront is a nonprofit focused on helping military Families thrive in the community they and their loved ones serve and protect.
In conjunction with their community supporters, the organization brought their annual Back to School Brigade event to Fort Bragg last week. A group of over 40 dedicated volunteers came out Aug. 15 to spend the afternoon prepping 1,200 backpacks full of school supplies for pre-registered children of military Families at Fort Bragg.
Supplies are donated from various organizations, including Dollar Tree, one of the main sponsors. Many of the volunteers are past recipients of the help and services provided by Operation Homefront.
“We have a lot of Families that have received backpacks in the past that have come back to help us out,” said Darden Blow, director, Operation Homefront Carolinas.
“I have been doing it for four years. I won a house from Operation Homefront so I just started volunteering … The kids are just happy to get a backpack for school,” Retired Sgt. Devin Peterson explained.
“You just feel rewarded when your giving back and for me, they’re just like Family because I am in the military Family myself,” said Isa Stromberg, military Family member.
Families entered the gym at Albritton Middle School and checked in at the registry. From there, soon-to-be students could pick up additional school supplies and choose the perfect color backpack to carry them through the new school year.
Emelia and Lilly Knutson, military Family members, were very excited about their red and blue backpacks and making new friends.
Lilly is just starting third grade and explained that she picked red because it reminded her of red, white and blue; Emelia, starting the second grade, echoed the same sentiment about her blue backpack.
To Jennifer Kolb, a military Family member, school supplies and backpacks really make a difference.
“Really, it’s a lifesaver, especially because we are having multiple kids go to school this year. It just really helps us out to be more prepared to start the school year,” said Kolb.
Grace Kolb was very excited about her new pink backpack and starting the second grade.
“I am excited about going into the second grade because I am going to learn new things,” she said.
In addition to backpacks, Families gathered information and additional school supplies from booths set up around the gym including booths for Fort Bragg Armed Services YMCA, Army Community Service, The United Way and Girls Scouts of America.
Back to School Brigade also set up a cornhole game where children could choose from pencils, colored pencils, or markers if they managed to sink one bag in the hole.