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Build-A-Backpack helps families overcome ‘money crunch’ when school starts

By Robert Goetz | 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs | July 3, 2019

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas —

Members of the Joint Base San Antonio community will soon have an opportunity to provide some of its schoolchildren with the tools they need to start the new school year.

During the week of July 22-26, the JBSA Child & Youth Education Services School Liaison Office’s Build-A-Backpack program will accept backpacks filled with school supplies for distribution to students in financial need.

Now in its ninth year, the program has given more than 6,000 fully filled backpacks to military families and youth in local communities from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade.

“Many families, especially those in the lower and mid-grade ranks, can see a real money crunch at back-to-school time,” said Angela Green, JBSA-Randolph school liaison. “Our goal is to give the children of military and local community families the opportunity to start school with all the supplies they need to be successful.”

Students who are eligible for backpacks are children of active-duty members E-5 and below with potential financial hardship risk; active-duty members E-6 and above with more than three dependents and potential financial hardship risk; members who are actively deployed, on extended temporary duty or on a remote tour of duty; members of Air Force Families Forever or service equivalent; wounded warriors; and members with unique circumstances or hardships.

Build-A-Backpack supports JBSA families “first and foremost,” Green said, but the program also provides backpacks for students in financial need from school districts in surrounding communities.

Those who can refer a member to receive a backpack are first sergeants or their equivalent, Military & Family Readiness Center financial counselors, Family Advocacy Program representatives, Military and Family Life Counselors, and school district counselors and administrators, Green said.

“Referral agents are asked to contact the School Liaison Office at their location with the names of potential families to receive a donated backpack,” she said.

Individuals, groups, squadrons and offices are all encouraged to donate backpacks, Green said.

They can choose from four separate supply lists – List A for pre-kindergarten through third grade, List B for grades 4-5, List C for grades 6-8 and List D for all high school grades – that detail all the items to be bought and placed inside the backpack. Grade-appropriate items range from pens, pencils, crayons and highlighters to rulers, glue sticks, folders, paper and spiral notebooks.

“The age group listings provided are a general idea of what is needed,” Green said.

Supply lists are available from referral agents or by emailing the school liaison office at jbsa.slo@us.af.mil, or by calling 210-652-3081 or 210-671-3963.

Donors are encouraged to purchase all listed items for their group, but the program will accept all donations, including purchases above and beyond the required numbers as long as they fit in the backpack, she said. Monetary donations and gift cards are not accepted.

Green also noted that some school districts are requiring clear backpacks this year for safety purposes.

Donors should ensure all backpacks have a form or label distinguishing the age group designation or use the strips in the packet to identify the age group and, as an option, include a supportive note or card of encouragement for the student.

The backpacks will be accepted July 22-26 at the following locations:

  • JBSA-Fort Sam Houston M&FRC, 3060 Stanley Road, building 2797, 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Friday.
  • JBSA-Lackland M&FRC, 2160 Kenly Ave., building 1249, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Friday.
  • JBSA-Randolph M&FRC, 555 F St. West, building 693, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Friday.
  • JBSA-Fort Sam Houston Keith A. Campbell Memorial Library, 3011 Harney Path, building 1222, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
  • JBSA-Lackland Library, 1930 George Ave., building 6114, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday-Saturday.
  • JBSA-Randolph Library, 5th St. East, building 598, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday.

    Backpack distribution is tentatively scheduled for the week of Aug. 5-9, Green said.

    “We’ll arrange the time and place for pickup at the convenience of the families receiving the backpacks,” Green said.

    Families that benefit from the program are grateful for the community’s support, Green said.

    “People tell us how much this means to their families,” she added. “Without this program, they didn’t know how they’d be able to afford school supplies.”

    The program reveals the level of caring in the community, Green said.

    “It shows the compassion families at JBSA have for one another,” she said. “Supporting the program is rewarding, ensuring that all children are given a great start at the beginning of the school year.”