Luke Air Force Base collected and donated school supplies for a program called Backpacks of Love which helps children who are victims of domestic abuse.
“The program provides school supplies to children who for many reasons can’t afford them,” said Beth Oudean, 56th Force Support Squadron child care coordinator.
56th FSS’s involvement in Backpacks of Love began 15 years ago when Oudean heard about the program, which stirred her to be involved.
While there are many shelters and organizations that participate in Backpacks of Love, the 56th FSS donates their supplies to the West Valley Child Crisis Center located in Peoria.
“The WVCCC helps children who have been removed from their homes by Child Protective Services because of domestic violence or abuse occurring in the homes,” Oudean said. “It is their mission to find the children permanent and temporary homes.”
Similarly, the 56th Logistics Readiness Squadron Airmen also participated in Backpacks of Love after hearing about it through an email from Tech. Sgt. Nina Brown, 56th Component Maintenance Squadron test cell production supervisor.
“The donations we collect go to the New Life Center located in the valley, which is a shelter for victims of domestic violence and their children,” Brown said.
Although the LRS and FSS do not donate to the same shelter the one thing they do have in common is that their donations go to children who need them.
Even though the children are going through a hard time the donations will help them start the school year off right, said Staff Sgt. Daniel Evans, 56th LRS fire truck maintenance journeyman.
Both squadrons did what they could to help bring in donations for the children.
Oudean said the 56th FSS advertised around Luke to bring awareness to the program.
“This year we began collecting donations July 16 and ended Aug. 17,” she said. “We try to do what we can to let people know about the program as well as having a donation drop box at the entrance of the child development center and the youth center for those who would like to donate. We also have people from outside the base donate too.”
On the other hand, the Airmen from the 56th LRS collected donations from the Airmen in their squadron.
“We started by sending flyers to Airmen from our squadron that had a list of items to donate. Items included were notebooks, back packs, pencils, pens and calculators,” said Tech. Sgt. Miranda May, LRS operator record and licensing supervisor. “There wasn’t a set amount of items needed to fill the boxes we just asked the Airmen to donate whatever they could.”
What started out as a small donation drive resulted in something greater than what Evans and May had anticipated. They realized this as they began making their rounds picking up donations.
“We would pick up the donations about once a week and on average we would pick up around 200 to 300 items from the Airmen,” May said. “This last pick up surprised us, since we picked up 2,277 items, which was almost double the amount picked up so far.”
As a result of the LRS’s efforts, the amount donated far exceeded their expectations.
“I knew our squadron would donate some items, but I had no idea that all the members of the 56th LRS would go so far above and beyond the amount I hoped for,” she said. “I expected around 500 items, but we’ve donated 3,506 items overall.”
Evans said giving to those who need it is the biggest reward.
“These donations are going to the right children, and with these supplies they have everything they need to succeed,” Evans said. “I hope LRS does this again next year. I think Backpacks of Love is a great program, and I’d like to be a part of it again.”
Likewise, for the 56th FSS it’s not all about how much is given but about providing school supplies to the children who need them.
Last year FSS collected 87 backpacks and more than $1,000 worth of crayons, pencils and rulers.
Because of the kindness of the donors, Oudean said this year’s numbers have almost doubled.
“We went from 39 backpacks to 140 this year, thanks to the Children of Veterans organization,” she said. “Currently, we have approximately $2,000 worth of school supplies. We are extremely pleased with the outpouring of kindness by our fellow man despite these rough economic times.”