NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – It’s almost back-to-school season for students all across the Tri-State Area. That means time to stock up on notebooks, pens, pencils and backpacks. But it can be a hard time for the thousands of families who cannot afford school supplies.
That’s where Operation Backpack comes in, with Volunteers of America putting together backpacks stocked with back-to-school necessities.
Hundreds of volunteers have been busy putting together thousands of packs, which will be handed out to kids living in homeless or domestic violence shelters throughout the five boroughs.
Hugh Carrington said he volunteers so all students can arrive to school on day one on equal footing.
“If they don’t get an opportunity to get these type of supplies, they’re going to be left behind in school. When they get there they don’t have a pencil, they don’t have a pen, they don’t have notebooks,” he told CBS 2’s Cindy Hsu.
Operation Backpack began eleven years ago, with just 250 backpacks to donate. This year, the goal is to hand out 14,000 brand new backpacks.
Rachel Weinstein with Volunteers of America started the project in New York. She said the backpacks are given out to kids in pre-K through high school.
“A backpack is immediate, it gives the child everything they need right now. But it also is inspiring and it gives them the message that someone cared enough about them and believed in them and their ability to succeed in school to put this beautiful backpack together,” Weinstein told Hsu.
The donations come from corporations and individuals trying to help out some underprivileged children in the city.
Jacqueline Fedida is in high school now but started volunteering with Operation Backpack when she was ten years old. She raises money and awareness at her school, telling her classmates they can help make a difference.
“There’s people our age in this city going to school without anything and I think it’s really like a kids helping kids kind of project.”
Connie Garcia volunteered to help get some backpacks ready for distribution. She said the experience gave her a good lesson to bring home to her two young children.
“To appreciate everything they have and be happy…and always be able to help another kid. If you see another kid that just needs a little something, it’s not a bad thing to just say ‘ok here, you can have it, it’s no big deal,'” Garcia told Hsu.
The backpacks will be distributed to kids in 150 shelters beginning next week.