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Hudson -- Two area locations are on the frontlines of an offensive launched July 21 by special forces from the Volunteers of America of Greater Ohio to rescue at-risk and homeless school children from the enemy of despair and hopelessness.
Operation Backpack is a northeast Ohio program designed to put new backpacks and school supplies in the hands of children just prior to the start of the new school year, according to Jerry Lynott of Hudson, who is in his second year as a board member for Volunteers of America of Greater Ohio. Lynott was proud of Hudson's participation last year in the program.
ALL STAR SPORTS, 118 W. Streetsboro St. in Hudson and the Volunteers of America Thrift Store, 1063 North Aurora Road in Aurora are drop-off locations for Operation Backpack which runs through Aug. 12.
"I had a good feeling that the Hudson community would be supportive of any type of program designed to help kids in need," Lynott said. "Of course, Hudson did not disappoint. The response from the Hudson community was overwhelming."
ALL STAR SPORTS also was the Hudson drop off point last year.
"We collected well over 100 backpacks filled with new school supplies that we delivered to kids in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District," according to Lynott. "Thank you to all my fellow Hudson friends and neighbors who pitched in and donated to Operation Backpack last summer. Also, a big thank you to ALL STAR SPORTS in Hudson who supported the program in a big way and also volunteered to be a drop off station in Hudson and Chagrin Falls."
New backpacks and school supplies are items which will help homeless or at-risk of being homeless students begin the new school year on a positive note.
"It's important that kids who are homeless or at-risk of being homeless have brand new school supplies just like everybody else," according to Stephanie Aubill, marketing/communications manager for Volunteers of America of Greater Ohio. "Having new supplies can be the difference between a child being excited about going to school and not wanting to go at all."
The supplies are being collected for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
"We're working with many Cleveland area school districts to distribute the backpacks and supplies to children in those areas," Aubill said. "Homeless children face many challenges and tremendous stigmatization; as a result, less than 25 percent of homeless and at-risk children graduate high school."
The organization is also asking corporations and community groups to collect backpacks, and challenge their staff to sign on for the 100-Pack Challenge, Aubill said.
This is the third year Operation Backpack has been launched for Cleveland students. Overall, this is the eighth year for the program in Ohio.
"Last year we collected nearly 300 backpacks and 17 boxes of supplies in Cleveland," Aubill said. "And last year we collected over 1,400 backpacks and 30 boxes of school supplies across Ohio."
More than 8,000 backpacks have been collected since the program began 8 years ago, Aubill added.
"ALL STAR SPORTS was instrumental last year in helping lead the collection, and we are so thankful they've agreed to serve as a drop point for a second year,"Aubill said. "With the momentum of last year's 100 plus backpacks collected in the Hudson area, VOA is hopeful that this year will be even better."
"It's not just a donation. It's really changing the lives of these children who might not have anything else to really look forward too. They struggle enough as it is," Aubill said. "We are so proud to be able to provide new backpacks and school supplies to Cleveland area kids who would otherwise be without and urge anyone who has a gently used backpack or the opportunity to donate a new backpack to these kids."
New backpacks and miscellaneous school supplies can be dropped off at ALL STAR SPORTS, 118 W. Streetsboro St. in Hudson, the Volunteers of America Thrift Store, 1063 N. Aurora Road in Aurora and STEP-IN, 5 N. Franklin St. in Chagrin Falls. Backpacks also can be donated at Ohio Savings Banks and Levin Furniture locations
For more information visit www.OperationBackpackGO.org.