Aadreaz Voss, a 3-year old preparing for preschool, pointed to a black-and-white composition notebook Friday at the Michael Anderson Elementary School gym.
“That one,” he said, looking at his mom, Shamarah Voss.
“Well, put it in the backpack,” Voss said, holding open a brand-new gray and blue backpack.
Voss and her two sons, Aadreaz and 6-year-old Aazeryuan, were among more than 200 families picking up free backpacks and school supplies at Fairchild Air Force Base on Friday. The supplies were provided by Operation Homefront of Pacific Northwest as a part of the Back-to-School Brigade.
The event provides school supplies to families on active duty or with parents deployed. Voss’ husband is at the Survival School at Fairchild.
The event will help the family save on back-to-school expenses, Voss said. “You need so much.”
The Fairchild event is the first of 14 in Washington, Oregon and Alaska, said Kari McClellan, executive director of Operation Homefront’s Pacific Northwest office. The organization will hand out thousands of school supply items donated by local Dollar Tree stores.
“It’s expensive to buy school supplies,” McClellan said, and the event eases some of the worry for parents as their children are returning to school.
“With the parents being deployed, there’s a lot of stress on the families as it is,” she said.
Tech. Sgt. Alan Simmons brought his son Bailey through the line, filling his backpack with brightly colored notebooks, crayons and pencils. Bailey starts first grade in September.
“We’re just helping him get ready,” Simmons said.
Volunteer Jill Newberry and her children, who live on the base, helped hand out supplies.
“I think you see that relief when they go through the line and they’re able to grab what they need for school,” Newberry said.
Newberry raised her two sons, Mark and Matthew, on U.S. Air Force bases, so she knows the stress of back-to-school time. Mark has graduated, but Matthew is just starting high school. She and her husband, 92nd Air Refueling Wing commander Col. Brian Newberry, have moved nearly every year.
“Even with one child, a backpack and the school supplies that are needed for a year, it’s a financial burden,” she said. “These are young families that don’t make a lot of money.”