VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System
Operation Homefront: Back-To-School Brigade
Dozens of children of active duty and military Veterans will start this school year with new backpacks, lunch boxes, pencils, notebooks, and other needed supplies thanks to the partnership between the Ann Arbor VA and Operation Homefront’s Back-To-School Brigade.
Held in the auditorium of the Ann Arbor VA facility on Aug. 23, the Back-To-School event is one of many throughout the nation put on by Operation Homefront – a Texas headquartered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization formed in 2002, that now has 23 locations and serves 43 states.
According to the program director for the central great lakes region, Sherri Beck, the organization was originally formed to help deployed active duty service members and their families with emergency financial burdens as well as provide counseling, recovery support, and outreach, and has since expanded to include some Veterans.
“We opened it up to anybody wounded, ill or injured because we saw an increase of that population,” she said, “our numbers in Michigan have already tripled from last year.”
Beck said that she was grateful for the opportunity to take part in the Ann Arbor event, and was honored that she could help young families get ready for this school year.
“I can’t even express, in words, how that feels,” she said.
Sarah Nowitzke, social services program manager for the Ann Arbor VA, said that the event was a huge success and looks forward to working with the organization in the future.
“Operation Home Front was super to work with,” Nowitzke said.
She said that there were over 60 children who, thanks to Operation Homefront as well as donations from the Ann Arbor VA’s Ambulatory Care nursing unit, were able to pick out their own supplies.
Nowitzke said that it was great helping them get ready for the school year, but that the VA also had employees and other agency representatives helping with healthcare enrollment, resources including outdoor recreation opportunities, and even gave away a half-dozen car seats to those with damaged or recalled devices – that, she said, is the most rewarding part of her job.
“Working with young families is one the most fun aspects of my job. I look forward to these types of opportunities,” Nowitzke said, “it also helps the Veterans build trust and engages them in other areas of the VA and the community who can provide additional support – it’s refreshing.”