Volunteers of America seeks to put new backpacks, school supplies into hands of homeless youth through Operation Backpack

(Sacramento, Calif.) – For homeless children, the start of a new school year is filled with emotional and academic challenges. While many of their classmates may take for granted their new, first-day-of-class outfits, or their shiny new lunchboxes, the trendy backpacks slung over their shoulders hold more than status, they contain the tools necessary to achieve academic success.

In the soon-to-be-published Sacramento County Children’s Report Card, the latest figures show that almost 9,000 school-age children have experienced homelessness in Sacramento County.

Volunteers of America’s Operation Backpack, July 8 to 22, aims to boost the confidence of Sacramento-area youth in need by providing new backpacks and school supplies that will help them succeed at school.

Through this seventh-annual community drive, presented by lead sponsor Tri Counties Bank, media partner KCRA 3, and supporting sponsors PG&E, Sutter Health Sacramento Sierra Region, Thunder Valley Casino Resort, and Starbucks, Volunteers of America hopes to exceed last year’s distribution of 4,000 supply-filled backpacks.

Volunteers of America invites the public to support homeless and low-income children and their families by bringing a new backpack filled with fresh school supplies to one of the more than 150 Operation Backpack drop-off locations, including all Tri Counties Bank branches, and 100 Starbucks stores. Donations also will be accepted at the Volunteers of America administration office (1900 Point West Way, Suite 270, Sacramento). Operation Backpack drop-off sites will be identified by promotional posters featuring KCRA 3 anchor/reporters Edie Lambert and Gulstan Dart.

Contributions also may be brought to the daylong community drop-off events July 22 at the Tri Counties Bank Arden Fair parking lot, 1760 Challenge Way, Sacramento (4:30 a.m.-7 p.m.), and at the Stanislaus County Office of Education at 1100 H St., Modesto (6 a.m. to 6 p.m.).

For a complete list of drop-off locations, and to download one of the four grade-specific school-supply lists, go online to OperationBackpackSac.org. Information on the many ways the community can support Operation Backpack – from contributing financially, to volunteering, to hosting a group drive (the “100 Pack”) at a workplace, at a house of worship, or through one’s service club – also can be found at OperationBackpackSac.org.

“Sacramento City Unified School District serves many students who live in shelters, run-down motels, in cars, on the street, etc.,” said SCUSD program director-homeless liaison Monica McRho. “With the economic crisis, many housed families are now on the brink of joining this homeless population. Despite the bleakness and uncertainty in their lives, these students have one thing in common ... they want to be in school with their peers. But they lack adequate school supplies, which leads to embarrassment and absenteeism. New backpacks and school supplies help motivate them to attend school, succeed in their work, and fit in with their peers. It is so rewarding to see the excitement and joy on their faces as they receive their backpacks. The students waste no time in opening them up, and pulling out the contents for everyone to see. It is a small thing to most of us, but means everything to them.”

Homeless children who attend school (some 9,000 in Sacramento County alone) face a variety of challenges. 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 (most often due to frequent absences and moves to new schools)

Operation Backpack seeks to provide some sense of normalcy to these children’s lives – boosting their self-esteem by giving them new backpacks and school supplies so they may start the school year feeling more like “regular kids.”

Currently celebrating its centennial, the Greater Sacramento & Northern Nevada office of Volunteers of America is one of the largest providers of social services in the region, operating more than 40 programs in eight categories: homeless services; homeless shelters; substance abuse treatment and recovery services; senior services; youth services; transitional housing; permanent supportive housing; and low-income housing. In fact, Volunteers of America provides shelter or housing to nearly 1,500 men, women and children every night in the Greater Sacramento area.

Volunteers of America Greater Sacramento & Northern Nevada boasts a paid staff of more than 300, and a volunteer roster of some 400 selfless community supporters.

Founded nationally in 1896 by Ballington and Maud Booth, Volunteers of America is dedicated to helping those in need rebuild their lives and reach their full potential. Through thousands of human-service programs, Volunteers of America helps nearly 2 million people annually in more than 400 communities.

Volunteers of America’s mission of ending homelessness, supporting the most-vulnerable populations and transforming the community into a better place, depends on community-wide support of its clients, who include at-risk youth, seniors, homeless individuals and families, people with disabilities, and those recovering from addictions.

For more information about Operation Backpack or Volunteers of America, please see our website at volunteersofamerica-sac.org, call 916.442.3691, or email info@voa-sac.org.


Media contacts:

Christie Holderegger, Chief Development and Communications Officer

916.442.3691 (office); 916.213.4133 christie@voa-sac.org


Barry Wisdom, Public Relations & Marketing Officer

916.442.3691 (office); 916.821.0932 (cell); barryw@voa-sac.org