Operation Backpack Helps Children in Need

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Drop off backpacks and supplies at locations throughout the city until Aug. 9 There are over 20,000 homeless children in New York City, many of whom would have otherwise started school without even pens and pencils. But by mid-August, Operation Backpack hopes to get school supplies and backpacks to 15,000 of these kids -- complete with not only pens, pencils and notebooks, but also calculators and dictionaries for high-schoolers. Operation Backpack began in 1999 as a simple idea that Rachel Weinstein of the Upper West Side, organization vice president, had when she was attending a school supplies drive for her daughter's elementary school. "It wasn't an organized effort, kids would only get a few pencils and pens, and I had just taken my daughter shopping," said Weinstein. "When I saw this, I was touched and I decided I would do a much more targeted drive. And that's how Operation Backpack was started." Operation backpack donates supplies and backpacks to 100 shelters all over the city through Volunteers of America. But the Operation has several campaigns all across the country from Pennsylvania to Ohio and Kansas. The campaign kicked off nationwide on July 15th, and lasts for a month. Last year, there were 13,500 backpacks distributed throughout the city, and the organization is excited to increase that number. Supply lists, divided by age group can be found online at www.voa-gny.org/Get-Involved/Operation-Backpack/Copy-of-Fill-A-Backpack. The average cost of a backpack is around $81 said Weinstein, so this would take a financial burden off the backs of New York's neediest families. But participants don't have to just fill a backpack, they can donate money or even a pack of pencils would be appreciated, said Weinstein. For West Siders: donations can also be dropped off at Gotham Wine and Liquors, in addition to Duane Reade locations. Weinstein said that this is not just about financial burdens, though. This is about shelter children getting the same opportunities as every other child. "Without these supplies, many of these kids would start school without basic needs. From day one, they would look different from everyone else," said Weinstein. "I spoke with one boy 15 years old who had gotten his supplies from us and his friends didn't even know he was a shelter kid. This is such a great way to introduce philanthropy to families."

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