Even though it's the dog days of summer, the volunteers of Helping Hands for the Homeless and Hungry are totally thinking Back-to-School. Specifically, school supplies...pencils, notebooks, folders, calculators and so empty many back packs...
This year's Annual Empty School Bag project in the basement of is just a few weeks away on Monday, August 13 and Tuesday, August 14. But this year is special and the bar has been raised.
"In honor of our 25th anniversary, we have set a record breaking goal of providing 2025 backpacks." Susan Salice is Helping Hands' "Backpack Chairperson" and she's sending out the call right now for community donations and volunteers. "For 24 years, our community has shown such tremendous support for this project, and we again ask our neighbors to help us supply more than 300 additional children with backpacks this year."
Each bag will contain 15 items appropriate for grades K through 12 which will be distributed to needy students throughout lower Westchester County, some in homeless shelters. The backpacks will be distributed through shelters and agencies such as Southern Westchester BOCES to young people in White Plains, Port Chester, Yonkers and Mount Vernon.
New school supplies are important because they act as an "equalizer" for students in need and their peers, said Elizabeth Brunson of Helping Hands at a previous year's event. "It's bad enough not to have a house or nice clothes, but these kids shouldn't look over and see the student next to them has the best paper and pens and they have nothing."
From its first year- when it assembled 180 backpacks- to last year's 1700 backpacks filled by more than 200 volunteers, the anniversary is clearly a spark to reach even more deserving children. According to Helping Hands, the project has reached more than 19,000 students since 1987 and is just one of the successful efforts of the Helping Hands partnership. The organization began years ago as a collaborative effort between faith communities- churches and synagogues in Rye.
The partnership- which now includes , , , , All Saint’s Church in Harrison and All Souls Presbyterian Church in Port Chester- has blossomed into not only the backpack project but also successful food pantry drives as well as its enduring first project Dinner @ Noon which serves 50 to 80 people at a monthly event at the Carver Center in Port Chester.
Right now, the group is soliciting donations and recruiting volunteers to unpack supplies and pack empty bookbags in August. Helping Hands uses the donated funds to purchase school supplies from a Queens wholesaler.
"It costs us $18 to fill one backpack," Brunson said. "The mothers say how helpful the backpacks are, and the kids send letters- with correct spelling or not- saying things like, 'This is the nicest backpack I've ever had!'
To donate or volunteer, visit Helping Hands website: www.helpinghandsrye.org, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.