Mon, Dec. 09

‘Blessings in a backpack’ at Old Town Mission
Operation: Back to School July 27 at Verde Community Church

Operation: Back to School will take place from 9 a.m. until noon on Saturday, July 27 at Verde Community Church in Cottonwood. VVN/Bill Helm

Operation: Back to School will take place from 9 a.m. until noon on Saturday, July 27 at Verde Community Church in Cottonwood. VVN/Bill Helm

COTTONWOOD – Old Town Mission is already making plans for this year’s Operation: Back to School.

Scheduled from 9 a.m. until noon Saturday, July 27 at Verde Community Church, Operation: Back to School is an opportunity for school-age children to receive a backpack and school supplies, all of which could cost as much as $200 per child, according to Jill Sweet, general manager at the Old Town Mission.


Five-year-old twins Sophia and Namar show off their backpacks, thanks to the Old Town Mission’s Operation: Back to School program. Courtesy photo

“Every child wants to feel included and not left out or embarrassed simply because they do have the basic supplies needed to begin the year prepared to succeed,” Sweet said recently in a press release. “Parents are tasked with long lists of school supplies. Unfortunately, many families here in our communities of the Verde Valley simply cannot afford this tremendous expense due to difficult financial situations.”

Blessings in a backpack

Cindy and her five children live with extended family in Sedona. Her children range in age from high schoolers to five-year-old twins.

Sophia and Namar, the twins, rely on the Operation: Back to School program for the supplies they need each year.

“Blessings in a backpack” is what their mother calls the program, Sweet said.

“They all have peace of mind knowing that they will have everything needed to start the school year off with joy and the expectancy of a great year ahead,” Sweet said.

When and where

Verde Community Church, located at 102 S. Willard St. in Cottonwood.

According to Kellie Wilson, Old Town Mission’s executive director, this year’s Operation: Back to School will also offer food and clothing to families thanks to local non-profit organizations.

Old Town Mission is currently accepting donations of any school supplies, as well as monetary donations for the event, Wilson said.

All donations can be dropped off before July 25 at Old Town Mission, located at 116 E. Pinal St., or at the Mission Thrift Store, located at 810 W. Mingus Ave.

Monetary donations can be dropped off or made online at

According to Wilson, Operation: Back to School is “a huge annual event which requires many volunteers.”

Anyone who would like to volunteer can contact Jill Sweet or Kellie Wilson at 928-634-7869.

What is Operation: Back to School?

The Old Town Mission has been helping kids with backpacks for many years. Four years ago, we decided to host the event off property and partner with other local organizations and nonprofits in our community, expanding into a fun filled community outreach.

Every year we try to add additional items this year we will be adding a clothing tent for families to shop for clothing, as well as a food tent so families can receive a food box.

What all does each child receive?

The backpacks are loaded with school supplies such as pencils, paper, folders, binders, composition books, rulers, scissors, crayons, erasers … all the essential supplies plus a few extras.

This year, children will be able to choose the items that they need the most, we will not be pre-packing our backpacks.

How many backpacks will be available?

Every year we see the need increases, and last year we distributed 1,000 fully loaded backpacks.

This year we estimate we will have more than 1,200 backpacks available for kids in our community, but this truly depends on the donations we receive.

You can donate online at

Who are backpacks available to?

All of our services, programs and events exist to benefit anyone who is in need throughout all of the communities within the Verde Valley.

Backpacks will be given to any student from pre-K to 12th grade who attends Operation: Back to School.

If children miss out on this great event, backpacks, if any are left over, are distributed to our local schools to have on hand for students in need.

What do the backpacks cost?

This is a free community event. Kids and families can enjoy game booths with prizes, bounce house, the Good News Expo, hotdogs, popcorn, snow cones and so much more.

It is all about providing children in the Verde Valley with all the tools they need to succeed during the upcoming school year.

-- Information provided by Kellie Wilson, executive director of the Old Town Mission

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