City businesses sponsor Backpack Brigade for Fort Bragg kids
August 20, 2010
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. - Fayetteville businesses joined together to help the Operation Homefront-North Carolina's "Backpack Brigade" Sunday distributing in more than 700 backpacks to school kids from military Families.
"This is our second year hosting the Backpack Brigade," said Christine D. Wyatt, the manger of Morningstar Storage on Skateway Drive, where the event was held.
Operation Homefront is a national organization that takes care of Soldiers, especially wounded warriors and the Families of deployed Soldiers, she said.
"I remember one Soldier, who came over with his kids, and he asked me: How much for the hot dogs'" she said.
After the Soldier thanked her, Wyatt said he thanked him for his service and made sure he felt welcome.
The relationship with Morningstar started three years ago when Wyatt received a phone call from Operation Homefront asking for the price of storage for their local inventory or school supplies and backpacks, she said.
She said she was not familiar with the organization, so when she found out about their mission of helping military personnel and their Families, she offered the group two free storage units at her facility for Back-to-School events.
"So many of our customers are in the military, helping the Backpack Brigade was a great way to pay them back," she said.
In addition to the backpacks, the children were given other school supplies and provided with free hot dogs and drinks. There were also give-aways from surrounding businesses, such at the Round-A-Gold, miniature golf company and sandwiches from Jersey Mike's sandwich shops, she said.
For both, boys and the girls, the camouflage designs were the most popular and the most popular booth was the free face painting provided by the teachers at the across the street neighbor, Network Childcare, she said.
Samantha L. Parker, an assistant to the manager at Morningstar, said to be eligible for a backpack, children needed to register on the Operation Homefront's website at http://www.operationhomefront.net/nc/ and their sponsor parent must be below the rank of Sergeant.
Parker said she has first-hand knowledge of the good work Operation Homefront performs, such as the help they gave a friend of hers who lost a leg during the 2003 liberation of Iraq.
"They were fabulous in the way they supported him all through the years of his rehab," she said.
The Parker family also took advantage of another Operation Homefront program last Christmas, when her husband, Sgt. 1st Class Curtis A. Parker, was deployed to Southwest Asia with the 108th Air Defense Brigade, she said.
"Every Christmas, Operation Homefront passes out gift cards to either Sears or K-Mart to the children of deployed Soldiers," she said.
Parker said her husband, who returned home in July, joined the effort by directing car and foot traffic and doing whatever was asked of him.
Wyatt said next year she plans on making the Backpack Brigade event even bigger. "Other businesses are calling us to get involved, I tell them it is not a problem: 'As long as you do something for the kids."