And so here at the Coalition, we’re in the midst of our sixth annual Project: Back to School, which has given out more than 10,000 backpacks filled with school supplies to homeless children in New York City since its inception in 2008 – and we are hoping to give out as many as 6,000 more this year alone! Our staff and volunteers are currently unpacking and sorting through thousands of packs of pencils, pens, crayons and other school supplies, customizing each backpack for boys and girls of all grade levels.
Project: Back to School was given an incredible early boost thanks to our long-time partner, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT). For the past five years, the UFT has been enthusiastically providing huge quantities of school supplies for the drive. Last December they stepped up their efforts and gave us an exceptional gift of thousands of backpacks already fully loaded with supplies to use in this year’s drive. Because we were still nine months away from the start of school when UFT provided the bags, Manhattan Mini Storage – an invaluable partner to Project: Back to School since day one – immediately offered to store the bags for us until we were ready to distribute them. Within hours, UFT volunteers were graciously unloading hundreds of boxes into their storage units.
Thanks to the generosity of the UFT, Manhattan Mini Storage, and our dedicated volunteers from AIG and Bank of America, we have already been able to distribute over 3,500 backpacks to homeless girls and boys in shelters around the city!
All of this good news could not come at a more critical time. Tonight, more than 21,000 children are sleeping in NYC homeless shelters – far more than at any time since the Great Depression. When I began working with the Coalition five years ago, the number was closer to 15,000 – an already tragic figure that has been sadly eclipsed by the skyrocketing number of men, women and kids forced to sleep in emergency shelter each night as a result of failed City policies.
You can help us make sure that every homeless child has what he or she needs to start school by donating backpacks, pens, filler paper and other necessities at 52 locations around the city, including all Manhattan Mini Storage locations and many of the Brooklyn and Queens public libraries. As your own child is choosing his or her school supplies, or even if you’re just picking up a couple of things at your local drug store, consider adding a few extra items from our wish list. Everything will be sorted and packed to ensure a homeless child in New York can have a successful school year. The drive ends September 20.