20 Years of Operation Backpack®


NEW YORK—VOA-Greater New York, an anti-poverty organization with a rich 125-year history of serving New Yorkers in need, today announced the launch of the organization’s 20th annual Operation Backpack® campaign—a community-wide effort with the goal of ensuring that every child living in a New York City homeless shelter has the grade-specific school supplies they need to succeed in the classroom and beyond.

One of the most devastating consequences of family homelessness—coupled with the traumatizing impact of living in poverty—is its impact on a child’s education. Currently, there are approximately 15,000 children who rely on a NYC shelter as their temporary home. Helping children succeed in school is critical to breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty and having a full complement of school supplies plays a critical role in higher rates of homework completion, class participation and, ultimately, graduation.

“Over the last 20 years, VOA-Greater New York has given hundreds of thousands of children who are homeless a sense of normalcy during the back-to-school season through Operation Backpack®. And in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for this campaign has never been so prevalent,” said Myung Lee, President and CEO of VOA-Greater New York. “We are committed to ensuring that these children are equipped with the tools to grow and succeed in an educational environment.”

Operation Backpack® was launched in 2003 as an effort to collect school supplies for the children living in VOA-Greater New York’s own shelters and has since grown to become the largest back-to-school drive in New York City. Today, more than 200 shelters receive backpacks and supplies through the campaign.

“Operation Backpack® is a culmination of support from individuals, corporate partners, foundations and volunteers, without whom this initiative would not be possible. Many of our partners have been supporting the campaign for years, including through the pandemic. We are so grateful to work alongside our community for such a worthwhile cause,” said Angela Ciminello, Chief Development and External Affairs Officer at VOA-Greater New York.

This year’s campaign is being sponsored by a number of prominent brands including RXR, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, Evian, Walgreens/Duane Reade, CMT Group, The Weeks Lerman Group, Loews Corporation, NYC Department of Education and HarperCollins Publishers.

Over the past two decades, highlights have included on-field experiences at Yankee Stadium, PSAs featuring celebrities such as actress and VOA-Greater New York board member, Paige Davis, who is also the campaign’s celebrity spokesperson, and actor Kevin Bacon, an appearance by artist Post Malone at a Universal Music Group backpack drive, support from Broadway stars, and more. A new PSA this year will feature award-winning actress and producer, Julianne Moore.

To learn more, visit https://www.voa-gny.org/operation-backpack.


Volunteers of America-Greater New York (VOA-Greater New York) is an anti-poverty organization working to end homelessness in the Greater New York area by 2050 by providing housing, health and wealth-building services to our neighbors experiencing, or at imminent risk of, homelessness. Founded in New York City in 1896, we are the local affiliate of the national organization, Volunteers of America, Inc., and one of the largest providers of human services in the region with 60+ programs across New York City, Westchester County and Northern New Jersey.