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School/supply drive on Stewart/Hunter
school supplies

Operation Homefront’s Back-To-School Brigade will provide a limited amount of backpacks filled with school supplies to military children at the Community Activities Information and Registration and Back to School Fair.

The CAIR and Back to School Fair is Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Newman Fitness Center on Fort Stewart.

The Back-To-School Brigade will give free school supplies to families of soldiers ranked E-6 and below, and to all ranks of post-9/11 veterans who are wounded, ill or injured.

Families must register on the Operation Homefront events website and create a family profile to receive the free items.

Operation Homefront is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to "build strong, stable and secure military families so they can thrive in the communities that they’ve worked so hard to protect," according to its website. It provides financial assistance to military families in need.

Liz Fitchel, Operation Homefront regional program manager, said this will be Operation Homefront’s second time at the CAIR fair.

"We were invited to do it again, and that’s a big deal," she said. "We have great friendships and partnerships."

One partnership was with Dollar Tree Inc., which helped provide the school supplies, and another with the wives of senior Army officers. These spouses help put the backpacks together and hand them out at the fair.

The Back-to-School Brigade will provide 750 backpacks to kindergarten through 12th-grade students. Backpacks will include pens and pencils, crayons, paper, scissors and binders.

This is Fitchel’s sixth year working with Operation Homefront, and every year she experiences something new. She said the staff and volunteers work hard to make sure the Back-to-School Brigade can help military families.

There was one moment that stood out for Fitchel. She was giving out school supplies at Hunter Army Airfield’s CAIR fair when one little girl, who appeared to have autism, had her eye on a pink backpack. There were only two pink bags left, and one of the senior officer’s wives gave the girl the bag. Fitchel said the little girl did not speak, but she could see her excitement through her reaction.

"I’m honored to bring joy and financial relief to families," Fitchel said. "I’ve experienced pure joy in knowing I made a difference in a family’s life."

The CAIR Fair is free and open to the public. It is a one-stop shop for military families, especially those who are new to the area. There will be local organizations, vendors, health booths, school district representatives and educational activities.

Hunter Army Airfield’s CAIR and Back to School Fair is July 28 at the Tominac Fitness Center starting at 10 a.m.

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