Operation Backpack®

Volunteers of America-Greater New York's signature community service campaign


As an anti-poverty organization working to end homelessness, we know that helping children succeed in school is critical to breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty. We also know that having a full complement of school supplies plays a role in higher rates of homework completion, class participation and, ultimately, graduation.

Through our community service campaign, Operation Backpack®, Volunteers of America-Greater New York provides grade-specific school supplies to students living in New York City homeless or domestic violence shelters in time for the first day of school, so they can enter the classroom feeling confident that they have the tools they need to succeed.

In 2020, we were forced to totally rethink our process due to disruptions caused by the pandemic. Rather than organizing collection drives, thousands of donors—including many corporate and other community partners—raised the funds necessary for us to provide school supplies and other supports to these students, helping them thrive in school and beyond.

And we did the same in 2021. Thanks to your support, we provided school supplies to all 15,000 children living in NYC shelters, sending the message that they are important and we are invested in their future.

How to Get Involved

  • DONATE. It's not too late to make a gift to Volunteers of America-Greater New York on our fundraising page to support this important work.

    To send a check, make it out to Volunteers of America-Greater New York and include Operation Backpack® in the subject line. Checks can be sent to:

    Volunteers of America-Greater New York
    135 West 50th Street, 9th Floor
    New York, NY 10020

For other ways to get involved contact us.

About the Campaign

One of the most devastating consequences of homelessness is the impact it has on a child's education. Frequent school transfers and the stigma associated with living in a shelter add up to great hardship for these children. If not for the school supplies provided by Volunteers of America-Greater New York, many of these children would begin the school year with another disadvantage: unlike their classmates, they would enter the classroom with few, if any, school supplies. So, on day one, these kids would be identified as "in need," or worse – "shelter kids" – setting the stage for their entire school year.

But the community in New York City and beyond has the opportunity to change this story by supporting Volunteers of America-Greater New York in the form of financial underwriting, donations of product and services, and word-of-mouth to engage others in the Operation Backpack® campaign. Each year since 2003, Volunteers of America-Greater New York has been distributing new backpacks filled with grade-specific school supplies to homeless children throughout New York City. This year, thanks to the generosity of thousands of people who live in, work in, or otherwise care about New York City, we believe that we will be able to give a full complement of school supplies to every student living in a homeless or domestic violence shelter who needs them.

News About Operation Backpack®