New York City Program Is Giving Students in Shelters New Backpacks for the School Year
Lifestyle| | By Margo Gothelf
Thanks to Volunteers of America, a bunch of students are getting brand new backpacks for this upcoming school year. Rachel Weinstein first created Operation Backpack after touring a New York City shelter. As the students were going to school, she realized they didn’t have any backpacks or school supplies.
“I turned to the staff and just said, ‘Oh, where are their backpacks?’ Just anticipating they would say ‘They’re already on the bus,'” Weinstein shared with APlus. “But the staff looked at me like I was crazy. It turned out these kids were going to school without a pencil, with nothing.” After her discovery, Weinstein went to work and created Operation Backpack. During its initial run, the program helped to provide 600 kids with used backpacks and other school supplies. The program has been incredibly successful and now hopes to give out over 20,000 brand new backpacks and other school supply items this year. Part of Weinstein’s success comes from her personal relationship with Trading Spaces host Paige Davis, who just happens to be her neighbor. Davis used her success to get the word out about Operation Backpack. “A big part of Operation Backpack is we want these kids going to school and feeling just like the other kids at school, and in this instance it’s necessary,” Davis explained. “The most productive way to end the cycle of poverty is through education, so we outfit these children with what they need to succeed for the task at school, but also to feel comfortable and accepted by their peers.” She continued, “Operation Backpack is very successful insomuch as it succeeds, somehow, some way, usually by the Herculean efforts of Rachel and her staff.” Last year Operation Backpack gave out over 19,000 backpacks. From their efforts, they were able to give a backpack to “almost every child living in a homeless or domestic violence shelter in all of New York City,” shared APlus. Weinstein is now partnering with the Department of Homeland Services and the Department of Education. With the partnerships, they can help narrow down the supplies and tailor them to a specific grade and need of the student. Brands such as Harper Collins, FedEx, HSBC, Colgate, Duane Reade, and Deloitte have all helped to get funds and supplies for Operation Backpack. One of Weinstein and Davis’ favorite parts of their job is seeing the kids come in and pick out the backpacks. “We all understand and remember what it feels like going to your first day of school; the excitement, fear, anxiety and opportunity,” Davis shared. “The children who are in homeless shelters because of the financial strain their parents are under can miss out on all the good things that come with the first day of school.” To find out more about Operation Backpack click here.
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