RYE, N.Y. – A Rye-based nonprofit organization is staging its annual appeal to provide backpacks filled with school supplies to homeless and needy children across the Sound Shore to put them on an even playing field with other kids for the upcoming school year.
“Especially in this economy, there are families that can’t make ends meet,” said Susan Salice, who is spearheading the “Empty School Bag Project” from Helping Hands for the Homeless & Hungry, Inc. “But we don’t want people to give us school supplies. We want everybody to have the same supply in their backpack. That way for any reason if kids went to the same school there would be no comparison.”
Since 1987, the organization has helped 19,000 students start off their school year with proper supplies. This year is Helping Hands’ 25th anniversary and Salice said the need has grown. The goal set this year is to raise $35,000 in order to provide 2,505 backpacks for kids grades kindergarten to 12.
The funds will provide backpacks, pencils, pens, rulers, markers, paper, folders, notebooks, erasers, glue sticks and calculators for older kids, which make up more than half of the backpacks. “They won’t be the most sophisticated, but the kids won’t be at a complete disadvantage from kids who sit next to them. We try to make it an equalizer,” said Salice.
About 20 agencies throughout Port Chester, White Plains, Yonkers and Mount Vernon inform the organization how many backpacks they will need based on how many children they anticipate walking through their doors. Many of the children, Salice noted, live in homeless shelters.
“We don’t know who these kids are. We trust that the organizations will give them out dutifully,” said Salice, adding that Helping Hands is more than halfway toward reaching its financial goal.
Volunteers are needed on Monday Aug. 13 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. to unload and set up supplies and backpacks at the Resurrection Church basement, at 910 Boston Post Road in Rye. On Tuesday, volunteers are also needed at the same location to fill the backpacks. Community service confirmation is available to students who request a form.
“On day two we encourage younger kids to come and see what community service is all about and volunteer for the backpack assembly line,” said Salice. “It’s a great event to see the community come together.”