8/22/2011 - FORBES FIELD AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Topeka, Kan. --
Four hundred thirty-two children of Kansas Army and Air National Guard members will need fewer school supplies this fall thanks to 190th Air Refueling Wing and Operation Homefront.
The 190th Family Readiness Group sponsored the "Back to School Brigade" along with the nonprofit Operation Homefront Aug. 7 - 8 at the Joint Force Headquarters' Nickell Armory in Topeka, Kan. Operation Homefront provides financial assistance, emergency home repairs, vehicle repairs and donations, furniture and household items and more to deployed family members. Since its inception in 2002, the organization has provided more than $92 million dollars to benefit military members.
"The smiley faces and hugs - that's my favorite part of this job," said DJ Purvis, the Kansas Volunteer Community Team lead for Operation Homefront. DJ understands first-hand the challenges faced by the families of deployed members; he husband is currently serving in Iraq.
"People want to help deployed families. They just don't know where to start," DJ said. "But we are one way to help, through donations or volunteering."
Operation Homefront currently leads more than 4,500 volunteers across 23 chapters. DJ is currently working to create an official chapter in Kansas.
Fifteen Kansas National Guard Teen Council members were also on-hand to pack and hand out the bags to the children over the weekend. The Council is comprised of 13-17 year-old children of National Guard members, who seek to serve as a collective voice for Guard families.
"This is a great opportunity for them to work with other military kids," said Darcy Seitz, the state youth coordinator. "We've worked them from sun up to sun down. They've done a great job."
Army Lt. Col. Anthony Randall, Kansas Medical Detachment, picked up two bags for his children on Saturday.
"I think this is a great benefit for Guard families; it's very generous," he said. "And being here on the weekend is considerate. Most of our force serves in a traditional role, so this is a great way to make sure they are taken of."
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Crystal Crews, 190th ARW, picked up a bag for her 8-year-old daughter Saturday, too. Crews has spent $90 so far this year on school supplies, so was thankful for the break.
"I think this was fantastic. As parents, we spend so much money every year," she said. "It's just nice that we looked after."
The 190th Family Readiness Group took the lead in organizing the event. In addition to being the 190th public affairs officer, for the past several months Blubaugh has led the Family Readiness efforts while the position was vacant.
"We do a back-to-school drive each year for our wing members, but this really has been a quantum leap for our program," said Blubaugh. "We've worked hard to involve not only the Army Guard but Marine Reserves, Coast Guard and Army Reserves."
"We couldn't have done this without a grant from the Potawatomi Nation, donations from the Kansas State Family Readiness Program and our partnership with Operation Homefront," he concluded.