Despite Challenges, Military Children Put Best Foot Forward as They Head Back to School Thanks to the USO

In the face of uncertain times, the USO provides hope to military families sending their children back to school with the supplies they need.

Service members don’t join the military to become wealthy, so they tend to deal with some financial restraints, especially when you consider how often our service members move from place to place or have to deploy at a moment’s notice.

On top of rapid deployments and frequent moves, military children are faced with some of the same COVID-19 challenges as their peers. In addition to mask wearing and social distancing, military children may also be faced with one or both parents being deployed and have a lot to contend with as they head back into the classrooms this year.

Throughout the U.S. Southeast, USO Centers have implemented Back to School Backpack programs to help military families by providing essential school supplies to children of service members, enabling them to put their best foot forward and get excited to go back to school knowing they have all the school supplies they need to be successful.

Each year USO centers with support from their local partners, collect and distribute backpacks and school supplies to military families throughout the U.S. Southeast.

As the 2021 school season began, USO centers in Florida supported more than 3,000 military children with backpacks filled with over 42,000 school supplies across 12 different locations.

“Our Back to School Backpack program continues to be an integral piece of our annual programming and a valued support relied upon by thousands of Central and South Florida service members and their families,” said Central Florida USO Executive Director Linda Jorge Carbone.

“This support comes at a critical juncture due to the economic hardships Florida families are experiencing in these challenging times and we’re pleased to be able to put a smile on the faces of so many military children. What a great way to say, ‘thank you for your service’ to our military families,” said Carbone.

The main goals associated with the USO’s Back to School Backpack program include providing relief for military families by furnishing the initial stock of fundamental school supplies they need and stimulating excitement for military children returning to the classroom.

“We are grateful for the USO’s Back to School Backpack program because it eliminates us from running around all over town to gather what we need. My children’s supplies are all in there and so much more,” said the Papesh family, who received supplies from the USO Mayport center in Jacksonville, Fla.

Working with their local GEICO Military partners, USO Fort Campbell helped to distribute school supplies to over 90 military children as part of their back to school supply program. GEICO provided the drawstring backpacks, and USO Fort Campbell filled them with assorted school supplies such as pencils, notebooks, scissors, glue, pencil boxes, highlighters, colored pencils and crayons.

Meanwhile in Louisiana, USO Gulf Coast provided school supply bags for over 300 military children at Naval Construction Battalion Center Gulfport. USO Gulf Coast also distributed school supplies to Coast Guard families at the Coast Guard Aviation Training Center in Mobile, Ala.

The school supply bags were customized per grade level with essential school supply items including writing paper, folders, binders, pencils, hand sanitizer, markers, crayons and color pencils, scissors, and highlighters.

“The school supplies are not only a benefit to our Coast Guard Aviation Training Center families and teachers throughout the school year, but also a big help with some families that could use the extra support at this time, said Mobile Area Spouses Club representative Carrie Rohrer. “We appreciate your kindness and thank you for bringing much needed cheer through the generosity of the USO Gulf Coast support.”

“USO Gulf Coast is grateful for the opportunity to provide school supplies to military families in this region,” said USO Gulf Coast Executive Director Felice Kelly Gillum. “We hope that by eliminating the burden of purchasing school supplies, our families can focus their resources on other areas that significantly impact the family.”

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