Offer Hope, Restore Dignity, & Transform Lives

Operation Backpack - Giving Backpacks to Kids in Need

by Sara Pugh


The Back-to-School season is a wonderful time to be a child. The anticipation of a new grade-level, a new class, and a new teacher bring nerves and excitement. The milestone of starting a new school year is generally accompanied by back-to-school shopping. With the ever-growing list of required school supplies, this can quickly become a financial burden to parents or caregivers who are living in poverty.

According to the most recent National Survey of Children's Health, 11% of Indiana's children have or have had at least one incarcerated parent. This is a great stress to the children, the parents, the families, and the caregivers left behind. The majority of residents at Volunteers of America facilities are these and other parents without the means to help their children get the school supplies they need. Thus, each year, thousands of children who are homeless, at-risk, or living-in-poverty return to school without the basic supplies they need to succeed. These children face great challenges and tremendous stigmatization. As a result, less than 25% graduate from high school.

That's what drove Volunteers of America Indiana to start Operation Backpack. Operation Backpack collects donated backpacks and school supplies to give to under-privileged children in Indianapolis. The backpacks are distributed to the children of the families in our programs such as Brandon Hall, Theodora House, STRIVE Indy, and Healing Families.

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With the help of community members like you, Operation Backpack has provided hundreds of backpacks, school supplies, and a variety of support services to poverty-stricken or homeless children throughout Indiana. This effort makes a true impact on the lives of the families we serve—including the parents, children, and caregivers. This gives an opportunity for parents to connect with and provide something meaningful for their children, and it empowers children to go to school with confidence, and feel like a regular kid. Participate with us this summer by helping children in need be prepared for the first day of school.

Here are some ways you can help:

  1. Donate any of the following items:
    • Backpacks
    • Rulers
    • Binders
    • Calculators
    • Pencils / Pens
    • Erasers
    • Paper
    • Pencil Pouches
    • Planners
  2. Start your own internal collection drive at your work, school, church, or club.

I have been running the Back to School event for nine years. It is moving to see is the kids' excitement to receive their bags. They are so grateful and look forward to going to school. And just as impactful is the relief and support it gives the parents and caregivers who are often living in poverty.

Contact me with any questions: spugh@voain.org; 317-224-2616.