For some families, getting their kids ready for back to school is another financial struggle when they’re trying hard to make ends meet. Thankfully, organizations throughout the city are hosting back to school supply drives and backpack drives to set underserved children up for success and there are plenty of ways we can all get involved. Read through our list of the best ways to lend a hand—or a backpack filled with much-needed school items for kids.
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Back to school supply drives and backpack drives
Coalition for the Homeless Project: Back to School
Every year, the Coalition for the Homeless collects more than 4,000 new backpacks and fills them up with school supplies to distribute to homeless kids in NYC. A wish list separated by age groups—early years, elementary school, middle school and high school—specify needed items, including new backpacks, binders, #2 pencils, safety scissors, composition notebooks, rulers and more. Host a drive of your own or drop off any new items at Coalition for the Homeless, participating Manhattan Mini storage locations or Huntington Learning Centers around the city. Coalition for the Homeless 129 Fulton St, New York, NY (212-776-2112, coalitionforthehomeless.org).
Volunteers of America Operation Backpack
Thanks to the efforts of the Volunteers of America and its Operation Backpack, kids living in homeless and domestic violence shelters get an opportunity to start the school year off prepared and encouraged. Grade-specific lists make it easy to fill up age-appropriate backpacks for students in need, but items such as academic planners, calculators, USB flash drives and subject dividers are always in need. Host a drive of your own or drop off your own purchases at participating locations. Volunteers of America Greater New York, 340 West 85th Street, New York, NY (212-873-2600, voa-gny.org).
If you’d rather fund a public school classroom anywhere in the country, you can pick a project of interest via donorschoose.org. There, program organizers and teachers post their specific classroom needs and donors can track how their donation will be used as well as the supplies school children will receive. donorschoose.org
WomenRising Backpack Drive
WomenRising supports women and families in need of safe homes, job placement, advocacy and counseling and this drive helps children who need basic materials to succeed in their programs. Necessary supplies include lunch bags, book bags, index cards, pencils, erasers, markers, crayons, construction paper, Kleenex, hand sanitizer and gift cards for school uniforms. Drop off donations at WomenRising until September 5th, 2017 for the 2017–2018 school year. WomenRising 270 Fairmount Ave. Jersey City, NJ (201-333-5700, womenrising.org).
Habana Outpost Back to School Bash
Habana Works, the charitable leg of eco-conscious eatery Habana Outpost, hosts a free annual party with music, dancing, raffles and family-friendly entertainment. Giveaways include notebooks, pencils, rulers and other supplies so kids will be set for the new school year. Habana Works, 757 Fulton St, Brooklyn, NY (718-858-9545, habanaworks.org). September 4, 2017 11am–2pm. Free.
Materials for the Arts
The New York City of Department of Cultural Affairs maintains this warehouse and with the help of nonprofit Friends of Materials for the Arts and the City’s Departments of Sanitation and of Education accepts unneeded supplies from residents and business. Public schools, arts program organizers and others can grab any materials they need for free. Among MFTA’s most wanted items are art and office supplies, paper, digital cameras and computers, but be sure to check the website for a list of items the warehouse does not accept. nyc.gov
YMCA Build a Backpack School Supplies Drive
The West Side YMCA collects school supplies to stuff backpacks that will be given to hundreds of elementary school kids in the neighborhood. Drop off items, including notebooks, pens, pencils, pencil sharpeners, pencil cases, markers, erasers, glue sticks, folders, looseleaf paper and hand sanitizer, at the branch’s lobby until August 4, 2017 and then attend Build a Backpack Night August 9, 2017 5pm–7pm to help assemble the backpacks. West Side YMCA 5 W 63rd St, New York, NY (212-912-2613, ymcanyc.org/WestSide).