Volunteers fill backpacks to prepare NYC school students for new school year
Volunteers have started filling up nearly 8,000 backpacks with scissors, pencils, glue sticks and other school essentials to help prepare New York City public school students for the upcoming school year.
About 160 of them will be working for the next two days at the Salvation Army's Harlem Community Center, starting on Wednesday.
"Well, as a mom and a New Yorker, I think that doing my part is important," said Keyonie Hart, a volunteer who also runs her own non-profit. "We got hit pretty hard with the pandemic, and I think that if you have the time, you should come out and help out. I was off today, and I saw it on Instagram, and I was like, 'I'm signing up right away.'"
TK Lee came with a team of coworkers from PricewaterhouseCoopers to help.
"I think it's important to come together in this time of a trial and the challenging time for everyone," said TK Lee. "And to show everyone that they're not alone, and we can show them love and humanity, and that this world is still... it's a good place to live."
The initiative came from a nonprofit New York Cares that teamed up with the Salvation Army Greater New York Division.
The backpacks will be delivered to 30 schools and community partners in need across Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx, according to Sapreet K. Saluja, executive director at nonprofit New York Cares.
"We're focused on communities that have been exponentially impacted by food insecurity, economic challenges, and the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic," said Saluja. "There'll be over 8,000 students who receive these backpacks full of these important supplies that they'll need to start off the school year right."
The initiative comes as the National Retail Federation estimates that parents will spend about $864 on average for clothes, shoes, school supplies and electronics for their K-through-12 students, totalling around $37 billion in 2022, on par with last year's record number.
Many parents can't afford such an expense and are cutting back on supplies, according to Katherine Cullen, senior director at the National Retail Federation.
"We know that lower-income families, in particular, maybe hit a little bit harder by higher prices and inflation," said Cullen. "There are a lot of programs out there that families can look to, whether that's donating school supplies, which can ease the burden of those items for families, buying secondhand for your student, or participating in things like clothing swaps or supply swaps with other families in the neighbourhood. All of those tactics can certainly help relieve some of the pressure put on those who are being hit the hardest right now."
The New York Cares backpack event at the Salvation Army's Harlem Community Center starts New York Cares' third annual Stand with Students campaign, a donation-supported initiative that includes academic tutoring, school revitalization projects, and book distributions in areas affected by food insecurity and financial hardship, as well as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic the in neighbourhoods such as Central Queens, East Brooklyn, and the South Bronx.
This year's campaign goal is $700,000.
New York Cares manages hundreds of year-round projects in elementary schools, assisting students with homework, math, reading and fitness goals.
In 2021, New York Cares served 45,000 children through in-person and virtual programs, distributed 10,000 coats to NYC Community Schools and 15,000 backpacks to students.