Operation Backpack expands reach to Moffett Air National Guard

By Madeline Burchard

Photography By Dino Vournas

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Child admiring her new backpack
GLITTERY BACK-TO-SCHOOL — A Camp Parks child can hardly contain her excitement for her new backpack. Back to school season represents a financial burden for Bay Area military families with the region's high cost of living.

For the fifth year, Sandia/California has rallied to give children of local military families a stellar start to the school year.

The Operation Backpack team initially aimed to collect 150 backpacks filled with school supplies. At the end of the campaign, Sandia had far surpassed that number with a total of 202 children adopted. Excitement for the program was so high that Sandians donated 28 extra backpacks that can be used by local military bases for students that transfer in the middle of the school year. The backpacks were delivered to the Family Centers at Camp Parks Reserve Forces Training Area, Travis Air Force Base and Moffett Federal Airfield.

Division 8000 Associate Laboratories Director Dori Ellis was impressed with the turnout from the division.

“This year’s Operation Backpack has been stunningly successful,” Dori said. “The generosity of the whole division, including Carlsbad and Albuquerque, has been beyond anyone’s wildest imagination.”

Volunteers pack backpacks with supplies

PACKING — Division 8000 Associate Laboratories Director Dori Ellis (second from left) talks to Operation Backpack volunteers before loading the backpacks.

Operation Backpack was born as a giving drive in the weapons systems center. It expanded to encompass all of Sandia/California after employees from all corners of the site asked how they could be involved. Since then it has grown to encompass all of Division 8000, including Carlsbad and Albuquerque, and the California Laboratory. The program also receives significant support from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Veterans in Energy, Technology and Science (VETS).

Its mission then and now is to thank military families for their sacrifice in service to the nation. The back-to-school season can be stressful and costly for any family, but can be especially trying for military families with a deployed family member or single-earner households. By providing school supplies, the Operation Backpack planning committee hopes to alleviate the stress and let military families know that they are supported by Sandia.

Dori Ellis and Rachel Gupta loading backpacks
THE LOAD OUT — Division 8000 Associate Laboratories Director Dori Ellis and Rachael Gupta help load a van with backpacks donated by Sandians.

Operation Backpack is led by Rachel Sowell with the support of the following genero­us people: Kathy Boyan, Adina Eliassian, Dori Ellis, David Gibson, Rachael Gupta, Judi Marquez, Michele Morris (LLNL), Tara Olsen, Terri Spraggins and Adrian Valenzuela (LLNL).

Adina Eliassian loading backpacks

OVERFLOW — Adina Eliassian loads a van bound for one of three Bay Area military bases.