Amber Ross of Berwyn East was delighted at the school supplies her 8-year-old son found in the backpack he received last week at the Military Veterans Resource Center office on East Dublin-Granville Road.
Marques, however, when asked to show what the backpack had to offer, proudly displayed a partial stack of Girl Scout cookies -- Thin Mints, to be precise.
Mother and son were participating in Operation: Tools for School, a program of the nonprofit organization that assists veterans.
Now in its third year and continuing through Aug. 31, Operation: Tools for School provides service members, guard and reserve members and their spouses with backpacks and $25 gift cards to Walmart for up to four children. Proof of service as well as birth certificates and proof of custody are required.
"Operation: Tools for School helps vets and families make a positive start to the school year," Len Proper, executive director of the Military Veterans Resource Center, said in a statement. "We want children to feel excited about school. It's a joy to see them begin the school year with bright eyes and happy smiles."
Two sets of backpacks were prepared, one for elementary schoolers and the other for those in middle school and high school, said Doug Schultz, a veterans service specialist with the organization.
"We basically figured that would cover all of them," said Stefanie Hauck, communications officer for the center.
Elementary school students received crayons and glue sticks, not to mention cookies, while pencils dominated the supplies for the older kids.
"It means a lot because it takes a lot of pressure off my back to buy school supplies with money I don't have," Ross said.
Initially, the program was poised to distribute 80 backpacks as well as the gift cards at the four Military Veterans Resource Centers in Columbus, Dayton, Cincinnati and Chillicothe, Hauck said.
However, monetary donations are being accepted through the duration of the program so that figure could go higher, she said.
For more information about Operation: Tools for School, call Schultz or Dixie Bishop at 614-230-0662.