<p>HONOLULU - The Oahu Veterans Center was a meeting ground for excited children and parents as they gathered to pick up much-needed school supplies here, July 27. More than 100 brightly colored backpacks filled with notebooks, pens, crayons and folders lined the sidewalk as children picked out their favorite color and excitedly rummaged through supplies. Shy smiles from children's faces showed appreciation for the volunteers' efforts. </P><p>Family Catholic Academy students and Hawaii Society of Volunteers assisted in the distribution process. </P><p>The second annual back-to-school backpack drive kicked off July 1 at several sites around the island, including the Navy Exchange Pearl Harbor and Lex Brodie's Pearlridge and downtown branches. Members of the community donated backpacks and other school supplies, as well as cash donations, for military children in need. </P><p>Last year, Operation Homefront received donations of new items to fill 125 backpacks for children of military families. This year's efforts benefited children of financially needy deployed and wounded warriors in Hawaii. </P><p>"There is so much aloha for our military and their families here in Hawaii," said Eva Laird Smith, chapter president for Operation Homefront of Hawaii. "Our community supports these types of programs as a way of thanking our troops for their sacrifices. This is our way of lending a hand to get their children a little help this school year." </P><p>Among Operation Homefront's community partners, BAE Systems employees, spearheaded by their human resource departments, actively gathered school supplies and cash donations among staff. Lex Brodie's provided radio spots throughout July to drum up donations. Earlier, the VFW Post 1572 committed grant funding for purchase of backpacks and supplies. Other cash contributions came from the Women Veterans Support Network and the Halewai Business Builders. The Oahu Veterans Center collected school supply donations on behalf of Operation Homefront as well. Diamond Head Self Storage, which provides free space for Operation Homefront's various morale programs, also stored incoming school supplies. </P><p>The charitable organization Kids in Distressed Situations (K.I.D.S.) donated more than 50 pairs of new shoes to show support as well. Children found boots and slippers to match their backpacks and wear on their first day of school. </P><p> "Operation Homefront as always been our support network," said family member Jean Singleton. "Everywhere we go they are there to aid us, and this is a huge help getting the kids ready for another school year." </P><p>Military family members signed up through Operation Homefront prior to the distribution date to determine eligibility for receiving school supplies. </P><p> "This is a unique volunteer opportunity and it gives us a chance to meet and work with the military," said Hawaii Society of Volunteers President Janine Wedemeyer. "The students need these supplies and we love giving them out." </P><p> "And those backpacks look great with little kids in them," added volunteer Alan Clark.</P>

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16