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Operation Backpack: Public Drive to Collect Backpacks and School Supplies Kicks Off Its 10th Year

Operation Backpack

Summer vacation is just around the corner and Volunteers of America - Greater New York (VOA) is gearing up to launch Operation Backpack, its 10th annual campaign to collect brand-new backpacks and school supplies for thousands of children living in New York City shelters.

Operation Backpack is a great community service project for anyone of any age where parents can find a fun and fulfilling summer activity for the whole family. The public drive will run from Monday, July 15th through August 9th, and during that time you can drop off a backpack or school supplies at any Duane Reade location.

Assisting in Operation Backpack can benefit a child by helping them to appreciate their own belongings and allowing them to realize the importance of giving to those who aren’t as fortunate. Parents can inspire their kids to give back to their community by asking them to choose extra school supplies and backpacks to those less fortunate. No person is to small to help or to young to learn the significance of community service.

Last year VOA collected 13,500 backpacks. Although Operation Backpack is organized by Volunteers of America-Greater New York, the campaign helps not only the children who reside in the Volunteers of America shelters, but also children in shelters throughout New York City. In 2012, children in more than 100 shelters across the city benefited from Operation Backpack. This year, Volunteers of America-Greater New York’s goal for the drive is 15,000 new, filled backpacks.

Rachel Weinstein, Vice-President/Chief Development and Communications Officer of Volunteers of America-Greater New York, speaks of the importance of the program. “Homelessness has a devastating impact on children’s education. The cost of a single backpack with necessary supplies can easily exceed $100 – especially for a high-school student who needs items such as a scientific calculator, a thesaurus and a flash drive. We need to equip these children with all the tools to allow them to succeed in school, because a high school diploma is essential to breaking the cycle of homelessness. Operation Backpack works because it gives everyone in the community the opportunity to help these children in need. Anyone can get involved so these children will be able to begin school looking and feeling more like their housed classmates.”

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In addition to support from Duane Reade, Fed Ex donates their pick-up and drop-off services, transporting thousands of backpacks from more than 100 corporate partners. They are sorted by volunteers according to grade level and gender during sort week in August and will be delivered to children in shelters in time for school. Major corporate sponsors also include Crystal & Company and HSBC Bank USA. Organizations interested in getting involved should contact Colleen Magri at

The Volunteers of America affiliates that are conducting OPERATION BACKPACK® drives include: Chesapeake, Colorado, Delaware Valley, Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho, Greater Los Angeles, Greater Ohio, Greater Sacramento, Northern Nevada, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Southeast.

The public can also drop off new backpacks and supplies at any Duane Reade store. For grade-appropriate packing lists and other drop locations visit

For a full listing of participating affiliates, visit

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