Today I dedicate my blog to bragging about a marvelous campaign I’ve been involved with for 10 years now. It’s called Operation Backpack! If this blog had audio, you’d hear me screaming like Oprah right now.
It is a program generated by Volunteers of America, a nationwide organization of which I am on the board of directors for the New York chapter. We are one the largest suppliers of social services in the city. We provide shelters and guidance for the homeless, veterans, domestic violence victims, the aging, and more.
Plain and simple, Operation Backpack collects and distributes new backpacks filled with new grade-specific school supplies to children in our homeless and domestic violence shelters. The school supply drive culminates in a giant Sort Week, where volunteers literally go through all the donated supplies and prepare and label each backpack according to grade for them to be delivered to each child.
One of the most devastating consequences of homelessness is the impact it has on a child’s education. A filled backpack relieves parents of a financial burden and provides a sense of normalcy to the otherwise chaotic lives of these children. Most importantly, a filled backpack allows these children to start the school year feeling prepared and confident, with the knowledge that their education is important and that someone believes in them. Without this support a child may decide to skip school all together in hopes of avoiding the feelings of worthlessness, misplaced shame, and embarrassment that come from being homeless.
I became involved with Operation Backpack for a few reasons, not the least of which is the staggering statistic of over 20,000 homeless school-age children in our city. That’s the hard-core fact that motivated me to offer my service to Volunteers of America in the first place. But generating my ongoing relationship with VOA, my decision to join the board of directors, and my continued commitment to Operation Backpack are multiple contributing factors that inspire and uplift me every year.
First and foremost, is the passion exemplified in VOA’s committed Communications Director, Rachel Weinstein. It is her tireless efforts that make me believe we can make a difference.
Rachel’s dedication inspires me, and frankly, it inspires all her close friends to give everything we’ve got to help Operation Backpack prosper.
Beyond my friend’s leadership, it is the success stories that spur me on.
Hearing about this young lady who credits receiving a backpack her junior year of high school for propelling her to the honor roll and on to college. Knowing that a kid will save and use their dictionary and thesaurus and calculator year after year. Seeing the smiles on the faces of children who realize someone cared enough about them to give them a fresh start to the school year and the stories of children and families who are just so grateful. They motivate me to do all I can.
We collect money and supplies from corporate sponsors, but at its heart, Operation Backpack is a public awareness campaign. We have ways for the public to donate money and supplies and we need the public to contribute or we’ll never reach our goal of providing 20,000 backpacks this year. If you haven’t already guessed, I’m asking you to contribute as much as you can.
I know every charity says this – every little bit helps – but it’s so true. Every little bit really helps. So truly, even $10 will make me do a happy dance. And if you can do more that’d be swell.
This organization and this program mean a great deal to me. Please help us help these kids.