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.
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