Each summer, The Sharing Shelf organizes its “Backpacks to School” initiative to buy new backpacks and fill them with grade appropriate school supplies for low-income children in Westchester County. The program works with individuals and businesses County-wide to raise the funds needed to purchase everything needed for this initiative, from new backpacks to binders, notebooks, folders, crayons, pencils, pens and paper.
At this moment the last days of being in a school are a distant blur and back to school is filled with uncertainty, whether our children will return to school as we know it, shift into a hybrid system, or continue with home-based schooling.
The Sharing Shelf, in consultation with educators, has decided to proceed with its annual program. These educators have told us that regardless of what form school will be, children still need to learn. They will not only need the usual supplies but also resources to keep them mentally engaged and enriched. It is The Sharing Shelf’s plan to provide not just the basics, but enhanced materials such as age-appropriate educational magazines, puzzles, activity sets and books.
Even before the pandemic and economic downturn, Westchester County was a community with a mix of great wealth yet home to nearly 60,000 low-income children. In some of our communities, 8 in 10 public school students qualify for free or reduced lunch. We believe that number, given the current environment, is probably much higher. In April 2020, unemployment in Westchester county skyrocketed to over 14% from 4% in January 2020. Meanwhile, the average family spends $122 on school supplies, a sum out of reach for families struggling financially.
The Sharing Shelf plans to fill at least 1,500 backpacks and seeks to raise $45,000 for this project. Volunteers will help assemble the backpacks, using social distancing in a special area at The Sharing Shelf’s Port Chester warehouse during the month of August. The backpacks and supplies are critical to the academic success of low-income children and will allow them to return to school prepared, confident, and ready to learn.
To find out more about how to help or to donate, please contact The Sharing Shelf Program Director, Deborah Blatt at [email protected] or (914) 305-5950. You may also visit www.sharingshelf.org and click on Backpacks to School