By Jessica Tuggle
FELLSMERE -- For the 14th straight year, a small Fellsmere nonprofit is seeking the community's help to get students the school supplies they need before the bell rings for fall classes.
Operation Hope directors expect 1,000 children plus their parents to come to the facility in Fellsmere on Aug. 12 and form a line to receive donated backpacks with age-appropriate school supplies.
Jesse Zermeno, founder of Operation Hope, a nonprofit dedicated to meeting the needs of the needy in the community, has seen the attendees to his annual back-to-school backpack giveaway have grown incredibly in the past five years.
Last year during the backpack giveaway, Operation Hope was able to give away close to 830 backpacks to students from kindergarten age to middle school, Mr. Zermeno said.
Donations of backpacks for boys and girls of all ages are still needed, as are the school supplies required by the school district.
The following are some of items needed to fill the backpacks: No. 2 pencils, pencil cases, pencil sharpeners, crayons, Fiskar scissors, tissues, pink and white erasers, pocket folders, one-inch binders, rulers, highlighters, blue ink pens, glue sticks and lined notebooks.
Back-to-school festivities at Operation Hope will begin at 10:30 a.m. and will include games, food vendors, face painting and other interactive family-friendly activities.
Churches, businesses and individuals have volunteered to provide the activities for the families, culminating in the backpack giveaway around 1:15 p.m.
"I need a lot of people on that day," Mr. Zermeno said.
In addition to donations of school supplies, volunteers to help hand out the backpacks are also greatly appreciated, he said.
"In Indian River County there are a lot of people in trouble because of the economy," Mr. Zermeno said.
"Why don't we help out those families in need by giving them the school supplies they need?" he said.
For more information about Operation Hope, call (772) 571-1003 or visit www.facebook.com/operationhopefellsmere.