New backpacks and school supplies are on their way to kids living in city homeless shelters, and with more requests than ever, Operation Backpack is still looking for your help. NY1's Roger Clark filed the following report.
It's a challenging task for these volunteers, sorting thousands of school supplies and placing them in backpacks by grade so kids in homeless shelters have them for the first day of school.
"We now supply most of the city's shelters with new, not gently used, new, full backpacks, all grade-specific," said Rachel Weinstein, vice president of Volunteers of America. "So it's not one size fits all."
The Operation Backpack sorting process is underway after a month-long collection drive that ended last week.
Last year, Volunteers of America gave out more than 16,000 full backpacks, but since there are more kids in shelters this year, the current goal is 19,000.
"To think about all of those who are in shelter, that's my job to really make sure we're serving them," said Gilbert Taylor, commissioner of the Department of Homeless Services. "But to have partners like Volunteers of America to insure that we're really focusing on those kids who are under the age of 18, who are school aged, who need things, to make sure that they have what they need, I'm so happy to have a partner in VOA to be able to do this."
From pencils and sharpeners to erasers and crayons, the kids are given everything they need to a show up for the start of class. Since 1999, Operation Backpack has been making sure they are prepared just like their classmates.
"We want to help them break the cycle of homelessness. The only way they can do that, the only way we can help them, is to keep them in school," Weinstein said.
For such a massive undertaking, Volunteers of America relies on, of course, numerous volunteers to make it all happen. That includes some folks from NY1 who decided to pitch in during the sorting. It will take two to three weeks to finish the job.
"Even with the older kids, I think it can make the difference between kids going back to school and kids dropping out," said volunteer Kristiane Lambert.
Volunteers of America is still accepting donations to make sure that each and every backpack request is filled. For more information on donating or volunteering, go to operationbackpacknyc.org.