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HCSO and Other Groups Distribute Free Backpacks

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Long lines are getting to be the norm all over the United States nowadays. Whether it’s to be tested for Covid-19 or to receive free food, people are learning the virtue of patience as they sit in their cars in 90º weather to receive free goods and services during this pandemic. Saturday, July 25, unaware travelers on California Street in Brooksville encountered a back-up of cars and sheriff’s deputies directing traffic. The reason – a free backpack giveaway at Nature Coast Technical High School. 

Volunteers with the Hernando County school district and local organizations worked for more than five hours in the sweltering heat handing out colorful backpacks stuffed with school supplies to students and cleaning up afterward. According to Lieutenant Andrew Batchelder of the HCSO, coordinator of the event, volunteers were at the high school around 6 o’clock in the morning and cars started lining up as early as 6:30 am to wait for the 9:00 am start of the giveaway. 

Among the grateful recipients were Jayden and Jeremiah Johnson. 

“I’m excited about getting a backpack,” stated six-year-old Jayden who will be entering kindergarten. 

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Eleven-year-old Cameron and fourteen-year-old, Elizabeth Chandler will be doing distance learning, but they were equally excited.  

Fifth-grader Patrick and seventh-grader Caitlin Byron are excited about going back to school in person and seeing their friends. Patrick stated his preference for a blue backpack, while Caitlin preferred a purple one. 

Lt. Batchelder commented, “I never saw so many smiling faces in one place.”

In addition to the backpacks that were purchased with monies from the Sergeant Frank Loreto, Jr. Memorial Children’s Fund, the families received orange tote bags courtesy of the Suncoast Credit Union. The bags contained literature regarding information about community resources. 

Several hundred volunteers turned out to help run the event and numerous individuals, community organizations and businesses provided either funds or items to give away, along with the necessary “people power.” 

The following contributed valuable support to the endeavor:

Abundant Life Christian Center; Adventure Motorsports (Barney’s); Auto Nation Ford; Brewer and Sons Funeral Homes; Christian Life Assembly; Comfort Control Specialists Heating and A/C; Crosspoint Church; Davis Family Hearing; Downing Funeral Home; Family Chiropractic Center for Wellness; Family First; Fellowship Wesleyan Church; First Baptist Church Garden Grove; Florida Department of Transportation; Fraternal Order of Police; Gail Mcquown; Gateway Bible Church; Global Jet (Christina Grey); Gold and Pawnd II; HCSO Explorers; Killingsworth Agency; Kiwanis Club Brooksville; Merritt Funeral Home; Micro Matic; Mikes Auto Body; Parent Academy of the Hernando County School Board; Publix Store #0457; Red Shirt Training, Inc.; Rick Mathews Buick/Chrysler/GMC; Rotary Club of Brooksville; Spring Hill Rotary Club; Spring Hill MRI; Target – Commercial Way; Suncoast Credit Union; Turner Funeral Home; Walmart #967, #3526, #6207 and #1213; United Way; and YES Board ( Youth Education Services of the HCSO).   

“Volunteers were on board from the beginning. We couldn’t have done it without our community partners,” Batchelder added.

This year’s project marked the second time that the HCSO in conjunction with the Hernando County School District held the backpack giveaway. Last year it was a more elaborate event with games, food, and interaction between the children and the volunteers. This year, of course, because of the pandemic the event was scaled back. However, judging from the turnout of volunteers and recipients it was still a success and will make the transition back to school much easier for many families.   

If you missed this backpack giveaway there are a couple more planned in upcoming days:

Operation Backpack in Brooksville

Jerome Brown Center- Drive Through

August 1, 2020 – 10:00am to 1:00pm

Since 2002, “Operation Backpack” has provided backpacks filled with school supplies to children prior to the start of each school year.  In 2019 we raised over $4000.00 and provided over 500 children in the community with a backpack and basic school supplies for the first day of school.

This year’s event will be held on Saturday, August 1, 2020 at the Jerome Brown Community Center beginning at 10 AM. It will be in a Drive-Thru pickup to maintain Social Distancing Guidelines. The goal this year is to raise $4,700 in order to purchase 500 backpacks and supplies.

 “Operation Backpack” success is accredited to funding by Friends of the Children, Inc and generous donors such as you. We need your support to raise funds necessary to continue this community event. 

The Friends of the Children, Inc. (FOTC) is a 501(C) 3, non-for profit Corporation in the City of Brooksville. Its purpose is to provide recreational, cultural and educational programs to benefit the children, particularly residents of the City and surrounding communities.

Operation Backpack Spring Hill

Saturday, August 8, 2020 at 10 AM – 1 PM

Towne Square Mall

3021 Commercial Way, Spring Hill

This year’s Operation Backpack – Spring Hill is going to be a “Drive Thru” to still follow Social Distancing guidelines! We are so excited to still be able to continue “Helping Kids In Need Succeed”!!!

Also, Thank you all again for voting for us & helping Operation Backpack -Spring Hill win **GOLD** in this year’s Hernando Sun’s Readers’ Choice Competition!!

We could not have done it with our AMAZING community!!

This Charity Event is & always has been a “Community Partnership”, and this year we are trying for bigger & better than ever, to help even MORE kids!! 


Leslie Stein
Leslie Stein
Leslie Stein has over 35 years experience as a Speech-Language Pathologist working with neurologically impaired adults. She received her undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of South Florida in Speech Pathology.
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