Operation Back to School is July 20 in Chandler

Volunteers help set up Operation Back to School at Chandler High School.

Volunteers help set up Operation Back to School at Chandler High School.

For the seventh year in a row, the city of Chandler is partnering with local organizations to prepare students in need for the upcoming academic year—Operation Back to School is ready to hand out 2,600 backpacks filled with school supplies July 20.

It is the largest back-to-school drive in the East Valley, according to the city.

“It would be my hope that we can help as many families as possible, not only in Chandler Unified School District but in the city,” Chandler Mayor Kevin Hartke said.

The event, led by the city of Chandler and For Our City Chandler, brings together community members and more than 60 organizations for the benefit of K-12 students.

Nonprofits had been doing backpack drives for many years before Operation Back to School was established. However, it was not very organized and ran into many complications, said Niki Tapia, community resource and diversity supervisor for the city of Chandler.

“We get more things done in a community when we work together,” Hartke said.

The event began when someone at For Our City, an initiative started by Hartke, thought, "How great would it be to have a one-stop shop where Chandler students can get a backpack filled with school supplies?” Tapia said.

Many different community resources are offered during the back-to-school drive, as well. Tapia said dental and health screenings, information on water safety and library cards, and haircuts are available to students.

Tapia said the first and foremost reason the city continues to host the event is for the students.

“Seeing kids' faces when they get that backpack,” she said. “That’s exactly why we do this.”

Even though the backpack drive is put on by the city, Tapia said the event is a community effort.

“Our role is ... to organize and communicate,” Tapia said. “It doesn’t happen with[out] all the people who come together to make it happen.”