OGDEN -- The "collection phase" of the 6th annual Back-to-School Brigade program by Operation Homefront has begun, as the national nonprofit group works to meet the needs of the many military families living in the shadow of Hill Air Fore Base.
There are more than 2,000 school-aged children from military families living in Davis and Weber counties alone, said Judy Maughan, Hill Air Force Base school liaison officer.
Maughan said she is working with Operation Homefront, a nonprofit group that provides emergency financial and other assistance to military families and wounded warriors, to help assist the children from those families.
The greatest percentage of military children living in the area attend school in the Davis School District, Maughan said.
For example, roughly 500 children attend Hill Field Elementary School in Clearfield, with 96 percent of those children being from active-duty military families, she said.
The Weber School District also has "quite a few" military families, many of whom have children attending school in the Roy/West Haven area, Maughan said.
Operation Homefront is now collecting school supplies to assist those children, said Mark Davidson, director of the Operation Homefront Mountain West Field Office. The office oversees the Utah, Idaho and Montana region.
Collection of the supplies is being done in partnership with Dollar Tree stores. When guests visit any of the store locations they are given an opportunity to make a donation to the effort, Davidson said.
"We're hoping to serve 450 (children) in the Hill Air Force Base area," he said.
Because the Mountain West field office in Boise, Idaho, has been operational only since May -- despite Utah volunteers providing assistance to the Operation Homefront program for the past few years -- there are no figures available on exactly how many Utah military families have been served by the program, Davidson said.
There are, however, about 3,600 military personnel serving at Hill Air Force Base and the surrounding area, he said.
Based on the economy and the salary some of those military personnel receive, Davidson said, the program is designed to defray some of the expenses Utah military families encounter in sending their children back to school.
In 2011, the Back-to-School Brigade program raised more than $2 million in monetary donations and school supplies nationwide for military kids. Through the generosity of individuals and corporate contributors, the program provided 30,000 backpacks and filled them with school supplies.
Operation Homefront organizations and volunteers started collecting school supplies the first week in July, and will begin distributing the items to families Aug. 5, said John Smith, program public relations and marketing director.
"Military families, especially those in the lower and midgrade enlisted ranks, can see a real money crunch at back-to-school time," said Jim Knotts, president and CEO of Operation Homefront.
To donate, call 888-305-1486 or visit www.operationhomefront.net/mountainwest.