Operation Backpack is the campaign that asks the NYC community and beyond, to help VOA make sure that every New York City student living in a homeless shelter has a new backpack full of school supplies for the first day of school. This year, in addition to the PSA featuring Operation Backpack spokesperson Paige Davis, Kevin Bacon has shot a promotional video to help spread the word about Operation Backpack and the needs of homeless children!
More than 22,000 children live in a homeless or domestic violence shelter in NYC and in addition to the devastating impact homelessness can have on their education, the stigma attached to being homeless is a heavy weight, so anything we can do to help these children look and feel more like their classmates and less like a child in need, is great.
Operation Backpack began more than 10 years ago when we invited the public to donate their used backpacks for the children. Then actress Paige Davis lent her celebrity to the campaign and other stars, like Kevin Bacon, helped too. The outpouring of support grew and so did our goal: a new backpack filled with all the grade-specific supplies a child needed, for every school child living in any NYC shelter, not just our VOA shelters.
Last year 16,000 children received new, full backpacks in time for the first day of school. But we did it just barely. As usual, we were running out of supplies, from daily planners to graph paper – when a private foundation called and offered to make a cash gift, and that inspired us to keep plugging away. We hit up friends for second gifts, invited newcomers to donate, and raised enough money and contributions of product to make it happen. Check out what goes into the 9th-12th grade backpacks here
We always need money (that's why we need you to fundraise). We can also use more companies and other groups to hold drives, purchase and fill backpacks, “adopt” a supply (500 boxes of crayons for instance). Take your kids shopping for their school supplies and let them select and fill one for one of our kids; it’s a GREAT first introduction to philanthropy, Then, hundreds of volunteers sort supplies into backpacks in August and prepare them for pick up by the shelters.
A new, full backpack can make the difference between a child being excited to go to school and not wanting to go at all. It allows the children to start the school year feeling prepared and confident, with the knowledge that their education is important.
Anyone, anywhere can help. Fundraise, talk to us about organizing a drive, introduce us to your friends and family, be our champions and get your office supply company to donate in-kind product. Plus, individual and group volunteer opportunities abound, during Operation Backpack and throughout the year.