Twentynine Palms -- Staff Sgt. Rose Reed could have used a few more hands to carry all of the school supplies she picked up at the annual Back to School Bash here Friday, Aug. 10, 2018.
The busy mom of four children, including a new high school freshman and two elementary school students, was among the more than 1,000 people who flocked to Victory Field on the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, California, for the event hosted by Marine Corps Community Services and the Combat Center School Liaison.
Event sponsors included First Command Financial Services, American Armed Forces Mutual Aid Association, American Friends of Our Armed Forces, Coalition to Support America’s Heroes, Operation Homefront and Pacific Marine Credit Union. All had booths on the field.
Having everything in one place was a huge time-saver for Reed, of Headquarters Company, Marine Corps Communication-Electronics School, who made her way from table to table, picking up backpacks, pens and pencils, notebooks and a host of other supplies including diapers for her 1-year-old.
“It’s a blessing,” Reed said. “Having this huge resource for getting the kids ready for school.”
While parents filled free backpacks with school supplies and other goodies, and gathered information from on- and off-base organizations that serve Combat Center families, kids played games, read books, colored, got their faces painted, jumped in bounce houses and slid down a water slide.
When they were done strolling through the 27 booths on the field, many families munched on burgers and hotdogs, slurped sno-cones and sipped cold drinks to combat the heat.
Walter Parham, the Combat Center’s new School Liaison officer, who talked with hundreds of people over the course of four hours, said events like the Bash make it easier to help families.
Having resources for school-aged families all in one place saves a lot of time and effort, Parham said before greeting a young mom.
“Hello, how are you? I’m Walter, the School Liaison,” Parham said, smiling and shaking the young woman’s hand. Parham answered a few questions and told her about the School Liaison Program before handing her a water bottle and contact information for his office. He also pointed out booths staffed by Dr. Deborah Turner, Morongo Unified School District Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services and Condor Elementary School’s Parent Teacher Organization, where she could get additional answers to her questions.
Other booths staffed by on-base organizations at the Bash included Armed Services YMCA, Child Development Center/Youth and Teen Oasis, Education Center, Environmental Affairs, Exceptional Family Member Program, Families OverComing Under Stress, Combat Center Library, Military and Family Life Counselors, Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society and Provost Marshal’s Office.
Off-base organizations included Boy Scout Troop 78, Brightwood College, Mojave Desert Land Trust, Pacific Clinics, Summit Academy, Twentynine Palms Chamber of Commerce, Twentynine Palms Home Educators, and First Five of San Bernardino County.
Across the field, a steady stream of vehicles worked its way past a Coalition to Support America’s Heroes pop-up, where members of Marine Wing Support Squadron 374 waited to load them up with boxes packed with pantry items and toiletries. Each family received two boxes, one filled with pantry items and one filled with toiletries, provided by the organization’s partnership with Feed the Children.
Martin L. Badegian, a retired Army Colonel who works with the coalition, said the non-profit, which was created to assist severely injured veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, holds several such general distributions at bases across the country each year.
“It’s a few hundred bucks (families) don’t have to spend elsewhere,” he said. “It’s a thank you for their service.”
In all, the coalition gave out more than $211,000 in food, drinks, toiletries and diapers to Combat Center families.
Cynthia Truitt, head of business development for MCCS, worked with Badegian and the other Bash sponsors to make the giveaways possible.
“We have a lot of young families,” she said. “Anything that we can do to take the financial burdens off them with the expenses occurred with back to school is good.”
Bash Coordinator Rachael Pennington, MCCS Special Events Program Manager, agreed.
“This is a great event to have before school starts. It’s a fun way to introduce people to resources,” she said. “A knowledgeable Marine and family is a prepared Marine and family.”