‘Operation Backpack’ provides school supplies

  • Published
  • By by Steve Pivnick
  • 81st Medical Group Public Affairs
Members of the 81st Medical Support Squadron answered the call as they supported the unit's "Operation Backpack Challenge" to provide school supplies to children at a local elementary school.

Under the leadership of Staff Sgt. Ashley Iovieno, NCO-in-charge of the Clinical Research Laboratory, squadron personnel and family members united to provide 100 backpacks full of supplies to Jeff Davis Elementary School students. The school is in Biloxi, adjacent to Keesler Air Force Base's Bayridge housing area.

"I'm a member of the school's Parent-Teacher Organization which needed 100 backpacks for underprivileged children who would come to school with no school supplies," Iovieno said,. "There are more than 700 children at Jeff Davis Elementary. Many are military and others are from lower-income areas of Biloxi".

Items sought for the backpacks ranged from crayons, glue sticks and pencils to composition books, paper binders, tissues and baby wipes.

"(The squadron commander's wife) is also the vice president of the PTO and thought it would be a great project for someone in our squadron to take on, so I decided to take the lead on it. We did a breakfast burrito fundraiser and raised over $700 which paid for the 100 backpacks. We then asked for volunteers to 'adopt a kid' for back to school. It turned out to be very successful! Many people throughout the medical group - most from the 81st MDSS - signed up."

She continued, "We filled 16-17 backpacks for each grade, kindergarten through fifth grade, a total of 100 total backpacks. I was motivated to take on this project because I have a child attending Jeff Davis Elementary. I know she is friends with many children who are not as privileged as she is.

Squadron representatives delivered the donated school supplies to Jeff Davis principal Dr. Melanie Nelson and PTO president Debra Hache Aug. 7, the opening day of school.
The ecstatic Nelson thanked the Keesler members stating, "What you've done is huge. Parents need to know to start the school year off fresh and new. Having the proper supplies sets the tone for the year. Your actions have provided a great opportunity for a fabulous year for our children!"

In addition to the supplies provided the students, the MDSS personnel and other contributors were able to present several boxes of school supplies specifically for teachers' use.