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Operation Backpack collection for flood victims

By Staff | Jul 22, 2016

One Eastern Panhandle resident, John Bloomquist, knows it takes a whole community to come together to help others in times of need. This month, he is working together with his church, community, and family to provide every child in need, affected by the recent flooding in West Virginia, with a backpack full of supplies so they can be ready for school.

Bloomquist started Operation Backpack, which to date, has already raised $5,000 and 30 backpacks-well on their way of meeting their goal of 500 backpacks by the end of July.

Next month, students in the southern tier of West Virginia will be getting ready to go back to school. Many of them-devastated by the recent flooding-will have an empty backpack or no backpack at all.

“If you are holding a pencil, you have more school supplies with just the pencil then the kids of the Southern tier of West Virginia have to start school,” said Bloomquist.

Born in Summer County, Bloomquist enlisted some help from members of his church, Asbury United Methodist Church in Charles Town. Associate Pastor at Asbury, Bill Ball and volunteer Vicki Propps are helping him collect backpacks full of supplies for kids in preschool through high school.

Bloomquist idea for Operation Backpack was born while he was a volunteer at Asbury UMC’s Vacation Bible School at the beginning of July. He noticed that while people were dropping off a lot of necessary supplies, there was nothing specific for the children.

“I wanted a backpack so they could have something of their own. They will need it for school,” Bloomquist said.

Operation Backpack has been supported by Bloomquist’s Facebook friends and family.

“My granddaughter, who is three and a half, is doing a packpack for preschool. You can also donate supplies or funds and we will buy and pack them,” he said.

The community has been pitching in to help Bloomquist with Operation Backpack. On Monday night at the Sweet Frog in Charles Town, they held a spirit night and donated 20 percent of sales to the effort. The Ranson Civic Center donated many boxes of supplies to fill more backpacks, and AECOM has donated boxes of office supplies as well. Asbury United Methodist Church in Charles Town is holding a pancake breakfast (asking for donations of money or supplies or backpacks) this Sunday to raise additional funds for Operation Backpack. The hours are 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. Asbury UMC will also be collecting for Operation Backpack on the Third Thursday event in Charles Town from 5 to 8 p.m.

Bloomquist, a sound technician for Asbury, said this was how he was raised, thinking about “others before self.”

His father was an American Baptist minister and his mother was a lifelong volunteer who at the age of 95 received the 2011 Presidential Citizen Medal Recipient for her volunteer work.

Operation Backpack will be continuing through the end of July. They will deliver the backpacks before school starts. Asbury’s Doug Lance, has volunteered to help Bloomquist deliver the backpacks.

“As a photographer I am so excited to see the children’s faces when we drop off the backpacks and to take pictures. At this point we are not sure which county we will be going to,” said Bloomquist.

All donations and backpacks can be dropped off at Asbury United Methodist Church. To help or drop off a bag, contact churchoffice@myasburychurch.org or call 304-725-5513.