In New York City, nearly 22,000 children live in homeless and domestic violence shelters, and most are school-age. Often, their families cannot afford to purchase back-to-school supplies.

One local nonprofit, Volunteers of America-Greater New York (VOA-GNY), is already gearing up for September to make sure that every child living in a shelter who needs one, gets a new, top-quality backpack filled with every imaginable school supply, all in time for the first day of school.

Operation Backpack®, a community service of VOA-GNY, now in its 16th year, has outfitted more than 180,000 homeless students in New York City, with backpacks fully-stocked with grade-appropriate supplies. Last year alone, the initiative fulfilled every request it received and provided 20,000 backpacks to students in pre-K through 12th grade.

This year, the Operation Backpack® public drive kicks off on July 8 and runs through August 2, 2019.

Tere Pettitt, VOA-GNY’s President and CEO, said, “Operation Backpack® is a great equalizer, helping to ensure that children who are homeless start school on day one looking and feeling more like their classmates and less like a child in need, excited to go to school. By ensuring the children don’t go to school empty handed, we are helping normalize life for them, we are giving them a ‘normal’ childhood experience.”

The average cost to fill a backpack is $87 – an expense very few homeless families can afford.
Among the items needed to fill 20,000 backpacks are: scientific calculators, geometry sets, notebooks, washable markers, index cards, 3-ring binders, subject dividers, graph paper, dictionaries, glue sticks, watercolor paints, and USB flash drives, in addition to other essential school supplies.

Operation Backpack® is 100% dependent on support from the community. Here’s how the public can help:

• Donate money that will allow VOA-GNY to purchase, at highly-discounted prices, the critically-needed, grade-specific supplies required to fill all of the empty backpacks that have been donated. Click here to donate: DonateOperationBackpackNYC.org.

• Purchase and fill new, good quality backpacks. For a list of the grade-specific items that go into the backpacks, click here: https://www.voa-gny.org/what-goes-in-a-backpack. Bring the fully-stocked backpacks to Official Drop Locations from July 8 to August 2. Official Drop-off Locations will be listed once the drive kicks off at OperationBackpackNYC.org.

• Build a fundraising team on VOA-GNY’s behalf by going to DonateOperationBackpackNYC.org. Ask family and friends to donate.

• Become an Official Sponsor of Operation Backpack® 2019! Learn more at https://www.voa-gny.org/sponsor-obp

It is anticipated that more than 300 companies and community groups will participate in this year’s campaign, with many new partners already signed on. Official sponsors this year to date include RXR, NYC Department of Education, Walgreens/Duane Reade, The Weeks Lerman Group, HarperCollins Publishers, and FedEx.

For an additional snapshot into Operation Backpack®, please see the link below.
Operation Backpack® Thank You 2018

VOA-GNY is also seeking additional financial sponsors and major in-kind donors. To learn more, please contact Rachel Weinstein at rweinstein@voa-gny.org or 212-496-4305.

Volunteers of America, Inc. (VOA, Inc.) is a national, faith-based human services organization that was founded in New York City in 1896 and has remained at the forefront of social service ever since, helping individuals and families in need overcome obstacles to living safe, healthy and productive lives in the community. The largest of the affiliates, Volunteers of America-Greater New York (VOA-GNY) serves tens of thousands of men, women, and children in need every year, through 80 programs staffed by 1,300 skilled and dedicated employees, throughout New York City, Westchester County and Northern New Jersey. VOA-GNY’s life-changing, often life-saving work impacts the lives of individuals and families who are homeless and those at risk of homelessness, families recovering from domestic violence, children with developmental delays, individuals living with HIV/AIDS or behavioral health issues, older adults and veterans struggling to reintegrate. Volunteers of America-Greater New York is the largest provider of supportive housing for veterans in New York. VOA, Inc. is one of the largest providers of permanent, supportive housing in the U.S. Volunteers of America-Greater New York is committed to addressing the needs of the community with compassion, creativity, respect, and therapeutic models that inform our work.