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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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 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.”