Operation Backpack® FAQs

Why is Operation Backpack® so important?

One of the most devastating consequences of family homelessness is its impact on a child’s education. Helping students succeed in school is critical to breaking this cycle of intergenerational poverty and homelessness.

We know that having a full complement of school supplies plays a role in higher rates of homework completion, class participation and, ultimately, graduation, but backpacks and school supplies are costly—an average of $100 per child. This is an expense that most families living in shelters cannot afford.

Can I donate physical backpacks and school supplies?

Yes, we are accepting large donations of empty backpacks, as well as backpacks filled with school supplies! If you would like to organize a collection drive for your office, neighborhood, party, or event, please email Paige O’Brien

Who receives our backpacks?

Through Operation Backpack®, VOA-GNY provides backpacks and school supplies to school-aged children living in New York City homeless shelters, both our own shelters and more than 200 others across all five boroughs. Unfortunately, we are not able to provide backpacks or school supplies to the general public at this time.

What are the children given?

Every child is given a new, high-quality backpack and brand new school supplies according to their age group. Our supply lists are curated to align with what’s required by the NYC Department of Education to make sure every child has what they need.

How is Operation Backpack® funded?

VOA-GNY relies on the generosity of the community to make Operation Backpack® possible, including our many corporate partners. Make a donationcreate a fundraising team or learn how you can become an official sponsor.

When was Operation Backpack® started?

Every year since 2003, VOA-GNY has been providing backpacks and school supplies to children living in our city’s homeless shelters through Operation Backpack®. What started as a small initiative to provide gently-used backpacks and supplies to the children living in our own shelters, has grown into one of the largest back-to-school drives in the area.

What makes Operation Backpack® unique?

We put respect for the child at the center of Operation Backpack®. Children receive their backpacks and supplies before school starts, rather than distributing them at school, where students might feel singled out as “in need.” 

The backpacks that we purchase and accept as donations are top quality. We don’t place our name or logo (or those of any of our corporate partners) on the backpacks to ensure that they cannot be distinguished as “shelter backpacks.” For the same reason, we acquire a wide variety of backpacks, focusing on brands and designs commonly worn by students today.  

Our supply lists are based on the requirement lists from 30+ public schools. We make adjustments as needed every year based on feedback from parents, teachers, and, of course, the students who are at the heart of Operation Backpack®.

Help children experiencing homelessness thrive in school and beyond!

Skip to content