BARTONVILLE - Staff Sergeant Kenneth Steele of the Army Air National Guard Center in Bartonville spent Sunday afternoon helping is daughter, Kyla, pick out school supplies.
“I've been deployed three times. Iraq in '03,'04 been to Afghanistan in '08, '09 and the back to Afghanistan in 2012, 2013.”
Like many military members, Sergeant Steele must sacrifice spending time with his family to protect his country.
And when he’s not around, he’s glad Operation Homefront of Central Midwest helps Kyla get back to school.
“It's another thing we don't have to worry about.”
Pencils, pens and school supplies are a plenty at the Back To School Brigade. Kits color-coded for each grade level has just what Kyla needs to be read for her first day of class.
It’s all free and it’s all for military families, which is a big relief for Mom.
“It's a big thing. It's a big cost and you wouldn't think it would be,” says Steele.
“Last year it was somewhere around 460 dollars per child,” said Darcy Clardy.
She is the Executive Director of Operation Homefront’s Central Midwest Field Office.
She helped 150 local families find the right school supplies in Bartonville this weekend.
“When families have somebody employed it's a financial strain because you're essentially supporting two households.”
And as a former military mom, she wishes the Back To School Brigade would have been around when she served.
“When you're enlisted and you're one of the lower ranks you don't have a lot of money for extra things like that. And you kow that you have to put out in August and September to get ready to put your kids to school,” Darcy Clardy.
But Sergeant Steele says it’s not just about saving money.
It’s about supporting the family behind those who serve.
“Being a service member, you know, we have many different support centers that do so much for the troops. And it's nice, but uh, at the same time you don't want your family to feel left out.”
The school supplies were donated by people around Bartonville and collected at the local Dollar Tree store.
The kids were provided by the Illinois Currency Exchange Charitable Foundation.
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