Operation Backpack®

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

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Volunteers of America-Greater New York's community service campaign, Operation Backpack®, aims to ensure that every child living in a New York City homeless or domestic violence shelter who needs one has backpack and a full complement of grade-specific supplies in time for the first day of school. A backpack does so much more than simply carry school supplies; it allows a child to enter the classroom on that all-important first day looking and feeling more like their classmates and less like a child in need.

In 2020, we were forced to totally rethink the campaign due to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic (learn more), and adjusted our model by purchasing school supplies and backpacks normally donated by the public. Together, with the help of our partners—including donors, corporate underwriters and others—we raised enough money to outfit all 18,000 students who rely on a NYC shelter as their temporary home. It would have been easy to say "not this year," but you didn't let that happen.

Looking ahead to 2021, with safety precautions still mandate and few companies back to the office, Volunteers of America-Greater New York needs your help once more if we are to meet the school supply needs of NYC's most vulnerable students. Help us restore some sense of normalcy for these children and send the message that they are important—and so is their education. Below are some ways you can support this year's campaign.

How to Get Involved

  • DONATE. Make a gift to Volunteers of America-Greater New York on our fundraising page. For sponsorship opportunities, contact Rachel Weinstein at rweinstein@voa-gny.org or (212) 496-4305.

    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
    Attn: Rachel Weinstein
  • BE SOCIAL. Spread the word on social media by following @voagny on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and using the hashtag #OperationBackpackNYC.

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 and Operation Backpack® in the form of financial underwriting, donations of product and services, and word-of-mouth to engage others in the 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®