Operation Backpack 2015 is Underway!

(New York, NY)  Volunteers of America-Greater New York (VOA-GNY) has launched OPERATION BACKPACK® 2015, its annual drive to collect new backpacks filled with brand new, grade-specific school supplies for thousands of children living in New York City’s homeless and domestic violence shelters. OPERATION BACKPACK kicked off Monday, July 13th and continues through Friday, August 7th. This year, the organization’s goal is to outfit 20,000 New York City children with backpacks in time for the first day of school.  www.OperationBackpackNYC.org.

Since it was introduced in New York City, OPERATION BACKPACK has steadily grown in response to the increasing number of families in homeless shelters. Although the campaign was started to meet the needs of the children living in Volunteers of America-Greater New York shelters, it has evolved to benefit children living in shelters run by other providers throughout New York City.

The average cost of a filled backpack is $81, an expense few families in homeless shelters can afford. Receiving a filled backpack gives these children the supplies they need to do their work, and allows them to go to school with more hope and confidence, looking and feeling more like their housed classmates and less like children in need.

Last year, with the extraordinary support from 150 companies and other community partners,

VOA-GNY collected and distributed a record-breaking 18,400 backpacks to children in over 150 shelters across the city through OPERATION BACKPACK. It is anticipated that at least 160 companies and community groups will participate in this year’s campaign, with many new partners signed up to support this important effort.  Joining the effort this year is the Agnes Varis Trust, whose $100,000 gift will help bridge the gap created by the significant increase in need since last year.

Each year, thousands of members of the general public also contribute to the campaign’s success. This year, the public is urged to drop off a new backpack and/or school supplies at select Duane Reade and Walgreens stores in New York City from July 13th to August 7th. Visit www.OperationBackpackNYC.org for details on participating stores and to print out a list of supplies for each grade. Financial donations can be made at www.crowdrise.com/OperationBackpackNYC.

Returning sponsor FedEx will donate its pick-up and drop-off services.  On August 10, FedEx employees will transport thousands of backpacks from many participating corporate drives to

VOA-GNY’s OPERATION BACKPACK’s sort space, officially ushering in Sort Week. During this period, teams of volunteers will sort the donated materials by grade level and assemble backpacks in time to ensure delivery to the children in shelters before the first day of classes.

Additional returning financial sponsors include HSBC and the Duane Reade Charitable Foundation; major in-kind sponsors include Time Warner Cable, Harper Collins, RXR Realty and Weeks Lerman.

The organization is seeking additional sponsors. If your company is interested in becoming a sponsor, please contact OperationBackpackNYC@voa-gny.org

Rachel Weinstein, VOA-GNY Vice President/Chief Development and Communications Officer, and founder of OPERATION BACKPACK said, “We need to do everything we can to ensure the children in our care stay in school and earn a high school diploma, which is essential to breaking the cycle of homelessness. To do this, we strive to even the playing field for these kids and make certain they are prepared.  For example, we are more than doubling the number of USB drives we are distributing because we know so many of our kids rely on libraries and public areas for computer access.  Technology like this is critical to their keeping up with their classmates, feeling prepared and confident, and knowing that someone believes in them.”

Paige Davis, well-known host of TLC’s “Trading Spaces” and OWN’s “Home Made Simple”, and seasoned stage actor (Broadway’s Chicago and Boeing Boeing) and recently the highly acclaimed Dancing Lessons) is a VOA-GNY Board Member and spokesperson for OPERATION BACKPACK.  “Each year I am inspired by the enormous effort it takes on the part of Volunteers of America staff to provide this important service, not only to the kids in their shelters but homeless children citywide. It is such a simple, practical way to help these children. You go to the store, select the perfect backpack, fill it with the supplies on the list VOA provides, and you know it will go to a child who rarely gets anything new.  There is nothing more heartening than seeing the New York City community, and people across the country, contributing to this effort in support of children’s education. It’s an honor for me to participate in this much-needed program and see the first day of school for young students become one of the best days of the year for them.”

“OPERATION BACKPACK’S important work with school-age children living in shelter helps to ensure that they have the same access to educational resources as do their peers,” said New York City Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Gilbert Taylor.  “We truly appreciate Volunteers of America-Greater New York’s continued support of our families in shelter.”

“It is essential that our students come into school prepared to achieve their full potential,” said New York City Department of Education Chancellor Carmen Fariña. “By providing these important school supplies, Volunteers of America-Greater New York, through OPERATION BACKPACK, is a key partner in helping so many students on to a path to success. I thank them for their tremendous efforts and their partnership to lift up New York City school children both in the classroom and beyond.”

Volunteers of America affiliates across the country are conducting OPERATION BACKPACK drives that will benefit children in many states and major metropolitan areas. For a full listing of participating affiliates, visit www.OperationBackpackUSA.org.



VOA-GNY’s back-to-school effort began in 1999 as a small effort to collect school supplies for the children in its shelters. In 2001, with the support of the corporate community, the effort grew exponentially.  In 2004, the campaign was re-branded “OPERATION BACKPACK to reflect its ambitious new goal: to give every child in the New York City shelter system who needs one a new backpack filled with grade-specific school supplies. Started in New York City, OPERATION BACKPACK has been adopted by other VOA affiliates nationwide to help thousands of our country’s most vulnerable students get off to a good start at school.


Volunteers of America (VOA) has been at the forefront of social service since 1896, helping individuals and families in need across the country overcome obstacles to living safe, healthy and productive lives.   Locally, tens of thousands of men, women and children in need benefit from Volunteers of America-Greater New York’s life-changing, often life-saving work, including the homeless, families affected by domestic violence, children with special needs, adults living with HIV/AIDS, behavioral health or substance use issues, veterans struggling to find their footing and the frail elderly.  







For more information regarding Volunteers of America-Greater New York,

please visit www.voa-gny.org