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Operation Homefront’s Back to School Brigade to provide school supplies to veterans’ children

By Staff | Aug 1, 2012

On Saturday, Aug. 4, from 9 a.m. until noon, Operation Homefront’s Back to School Brigade will provide school supplies to children of veterans at the Harney Point VFW Post 8463 in Cape Coral.

There will literally be a ton of supplies from the joint campaign of the seven Dollar Tree Stores in Lee County, who have donated of the thousands of dollars of supplies.

The supplies will go to children of active-duty military personnel as well as kids/grandkids of veterans with the Korean War Veterans 155 as the host participating veterans organization.

Kids needing supplies that are children of active-duty military personnel are invited to arrive between 9 and 10:30 a.m., with an adult with a family ID card from the military branch or other military ID, and veterans’ kids between 10:30 and noon, with same – an adult and a veterans ID or proof of service.

Steven Berkowitz is the executive director of Ameri-Vets, the coordinating association for the event.

“This was started eight years ago back in Washington state, in Bremerton, which is a Navy town,” he said. Now a Cape Coral resident, Berkowitz lived there at the time. “I was working for the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs and I found that the normal channels for assisting veterans was slow and inefficient.”

The supplies are well appreciated, he said.

“We also help veterans when they need utility money, food, transportation and counseling like in post traumatic stress disorder,” he said. “And we do refer veterans to other agencies, in cases such as alcoholism, drug abuse, homelessness and domestic relations problems.”

The Back To School Brigade is a project of Operation Homefront, a national 501c3.

“We serve as the Lee County liaison for them,” he said.

“I got involved, of course, because the economic situation in Lee County is still drastic,” he said.

He noted the big backpack event at Harborside Convention Center in Fort Myers.

“They turned away 200 kids with nothing after they handled over 15,000. That’s what it is like.”

His house is already a myriad of boxes with supplies.

“We’ll have everything from paper, binders, glue sticks and calculators,” he said.

Transport to to the site is by Guardian Angel Transport; labor collecting, sorting and transport is also being done by local veterans service association Ameri-Vets and by Guardian Angel Home Caregivers; and the set-up labor will come from the North Fort Myers High School ROTC.

Cape Coral resident Ray Villanueva is a Vietnam-era veteran and owns Guardian Angel Transport Company, which is based in Fort Myers.

“I offered my services to transport the goods to the VFW, with volunteers from the North Fort Myers High School ROTC program,” he said. “I’m glad this program is available to veterans. Because of our discipline, veterans, per se, are very proud and do not like hand outs. But that fact that this is veterans helping veterans, which softens the blow and lets them know we care.”

Harney Point VFW Post 8463 is located at 4709 S.E. 11th Place. For information, call Berkowitz at 240-2719.