Central Arkansas children of military parents got a head start to the school year on Tuesday morning, when they were given free backpacks filled with school supplies as part of Operation Homefront’s Back-to-School Brigade program.
Kids and their parents gathered at the Little Rock Air Force Base in Jacksonville to collect items donated by Little Rock-area residents to Operation Homefront, a national military nonprofit that provides emergency financial assistance for military families in times of need.
Cecil Ennett, community liaison for Operation Homefront's Southern Plains office, said the Back-to-School Brigade is one of the three national programs the nonprofit hosts each year. The event provides backpacks and school supplies for schoolchildren whose parents’ salaries range from E-1 through E-6 on the military pay scale.
“Our target audience is school-aged children ages 5 through 18,” Ennett said. “We can’t satisfy everyone’s school list, but … we give them a wide range [of supplies]. We give them notebook paper, binders, pencils, pens, calculators, pencil holders [and] protractors. Every kid’s gonna get a pretty good upper-body workout today.”
The supplies in the 276 backpacks that were dispersed Tuesday were collected at local Dollar Tree stores as a part of the event, a news release states.
“We have a wide range of vendors and community partners,” Ennett said. “Arkansas Children’s Hospital [is here today], the Red Cross, Engineering for Kids …. We have base housing, security forces, and we have three of the four schools in the Pulaski County Special School District that service the base.”
Amy McCormick and her boys Xander and Joey, all of Cabot, participated in Tuesday’s event. She said they were notified of the Back-To-School Brigade via email.
“We’re excited about this because it brings us closer to going back to school,” she said.
Operation Homefront was formed in February 2002 to support families of deployed service members following 9/11, its website states. The nonprofit provides services to military families across country with 23 locations serving 43 states.