Volunteers of America helps kids in need succeed through Operation Backpack

(Reno, NV) – The start of a new school year is an exciting time for most children, but for homeless children in the Truckee Meadows, it is a time fraught with emotional and academic challenges. Without even the most basic supplies, these students start at a disadvantage that only gets worse as the school year progresses. 

Volunteers of America’s Operation Backpack, which runs July 1-31, aims at providing local youth in need with new backpacks and school supplies – tools they need to achieve academic success. 

Along with partners Dickson Realty, MXI Healthy Chocolate, ReMax Realty Affiliates, Kafoury Armstrong & Co., and WalMart, Volunteers of America hopes to double last year’s distribution of 400 backpacks to youth served by the Volunteers of America Family Shelter and ReStart programs, as well as homeless children served by the Washoe County School District (WCSD) Children in Transition program.  

“This is our second consecutive year of partnering with Volunteers of America on Operation Backpack, and we are thrilled to once again help our local students in need,” said Mandy Brooks, co-founder of MXI Healthy Chocolate with her husband Andrew Brooks.  “While a new backpack is such a small thing to most of us, for these kids it really makes a big difference. MXI Healthy Chocolate is extremely proud to be a part of this amazing program that supports our at-risk and homeless youth in need throughout our local communities.”

The need for donation is greater than ever. This year, WCSD Children In Transition will serve 3,000 homeless children in our community, and reports that the number of children reported as homeless in Washoe County schools has increased by more than 37 percent over the past three years. 

“There is no question that the number of homeless students has increased,” said Katie Morales, WCSD Children in Transition Program Coordinator.   “Unfortunately, as the number of homeless students rise, our pool of resources is shrinking. At a time when families are under enormous financial challenges, every bit helps. Something as simple as a new backpack and school supplies can make an enormous difference for these students.”

Volunteers of America invites the public to support the homeless and low-income children and their families by bringing new backpacks filled with school supplies to one of five Operation Backpack drop-off locations listed below.  Donations will also be accepted at the Volunteers of America Resource Center, (335 Record St., Reno).  

  • RE MAX Realty Affiliates, 10795 Double R Blvd., Reno, NV  89521
  • Dickson Realty 1030 Caughlin Crossing Reno, NV 89519
  • MXI Healthy Chocolate, 795 Trademark Dr. Reno, NV 89521
  • Kafoury Armstrong & Co., 6140 Plumas St., Reno, NV 89519
  • Walmart Supercenter, 155 Damonte Ranch Pkwy, Reno, NV 89521

Information on the many ways the community can support Operation Backpack – from financial contributions to volunteering, to hosting a group drive at a workplace, house of worship or service club – are also available at www.voa-ncnn.org.  

Homeless children attending school in Washoe County face a wide variety of challenges and long-lasting issues. Compared to other children, national statistics show they are: 

  • four times as likely to have developmental delays
  • twice as likely to have learning disabilities
  • twice as likely to repeat a grade (usually due to frequent absences and moves to new schools)

Furthermore, The National Center on Family Homelessness reports that less than 15 percent of students in homeless situations are proficient in reading or math, and fewer than 25 percent graduate from high school.
Operation Backpack seeks to provide some sense of normalcy and remove one obstacle from homeless students’ lives. With a new backpack and new school supplies, students get to feel more like “regular kids” and can start the school year on more even footing. 

About Volunteers of America
Each night in Northern Nevada, Volunteers of America, a national nonprofit, faith-based human service organization, provides emergency shelter, transitional housing and affordable housing for more than 700 men, women and children, including seniors, veterans, and the mentally ill.  At the Community Assistance Center in downtown Reno, Volunteers of America operates the Family Shelter, Men’s Shelter, Women’s Shelter, Resource Center, and ReStart programs, serving more than 7,700 people each year.  Community partnerships are crucial to creating a strong financial foundation that will protect and expand programs serving our community.  

Established locally in 1896, the Northern California and Northern Nevada affiliate of Volunteers of America is one of the largest providers of social services in the region, operating programs dedicated to ending homelessness, supporting the most vulnerable populations and transforming communities into safer healthier places.  For more information, see www.voa-ncnn.org or contact Sandy Isham, development and community relations officer at 775.322.7143 or sisham@voa-nv.org.