Operation Backpack® Sends 20,000 Children Living in Shelters Back to School with the Supplies They Need

This year, together with 2,000 volunteers and thousands more who donated, VOA-Greater New York (VOA-GNY) was able to distribute 20,000 new backpacks full of supplies to nearly 250 shelters across New York City, including 500 backpacks to students at PATH, where families apply for temporary housing. Each shelter also received an additional backpack for every grade group and gender.


Operation Backpack® is truly a city-wide effort as shown by the dedicated groups of individuals, families, community groups, corporate partners, and official sponsors who volunteered throughout our five Sort Week(s). Many individuals even returned to volunteer two or three times, bringing friends and family along to help. The work that we do at Sort Space is not always easy. There’s heavy lifting involved when we’re “pulling” full, completed backpacks and loading them into carts donated by Walgreens/Duane Reade to meet the requested amount of backpacks for a shelter. It also requires attention to detail, as volunteers make sure the backpacks coming in from the public drive are filled with every grade-specific supply that a child will need for the school year. Regardless of the task, our volunteers exhibit a dedication to the cause and to the students living in shelters across the city each year.


This year, we were able to host a number of special guests and groups including Operation Backpack® champions Gale Brewer, Manhattan Borough President; Steven Banks, Commissioner of the NYC Human Resources Administration/Department of Social Services; and Joslyn Carter, Administrator of the NYC Department of Homeless Services. All three welcomed volunteers to their shift on August 9, setting the tone for the important work to come. “Your job today really makes the children’s lives so much better,” said Administrator Carter. “They’ll know they’re not different, they’ll know they’re the same and they’ll all be excited.”


On Friday, August 10, for the first time, NYPD Transit officers attended Sort Week to help children living in our family shelter in Brooklyn “shop” for their supplies. The new partnership supports a joint effort to ease tensions in the community and challenge ideas that the children may hold about police officers. By the end of the day, the children had moved past timid conversations and were eagerly bonding with the enthusiastic policemen and women.

Another key way in which our partners help ensure that no child goes without is by “adopting” a product or making a significant in-kind contribution or financial donation to meet the complete need of a particular school supply.

Thank you to these individuals and organizations who so generously adopted a product:

21st Century Fox
Alex Rembac/Sterling Engagements
American Prison Data Systems
Bank of New York Mellon
Cushman & Wakefield's Women's Integrated Network
HarperCollins Publishers
Malachite Capital Management
Sol & Margaret Berger Foundation
Walgreens/Duane Reade

Thank you to Coffee Distribution Corp and Pepsi for keeping our volunteers and staff hydrated at Sort Space with refreshments. We'd also like to recognize the amazing donation of 6,000 Fingerling toys by WowWee for the 1st-4th grade students, and acknowledge Rutgers Presbyterian Church and The Weeks Lerman Group, for making backpack selection day extra special for kids from our family shelters by providing lunch and a fun art project!

Last but not least, Operation Backpack® wouldn’t be possible without our 2018 Official Sponsors:

On behalf of the 20,000 backpack recipients – thank you to everyone who contributed to Operation Backpack® 2018. We couldn’t have done it without you!