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Helping Hands to hold annual backpack event

Helping Hands for the Homeless & Hungry is holding its 29th annual Mission Backpack, which will work to provide fully stocked student backpacks for the 2017-2018 school year.

Mission Backpack has more than 250 volunteers committed to assembling backpacks for the start of the school year.

This year, Helping Hands, a nonprofit organization that helps residents in Westchester County with food, clothing and supplies donations, has a goal of raising $50,000 for supplies to fill 2,050 backpacks for children in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Susan Salice, co-president of Helping Hands and project leader of Mission Backpack, said that the nonprofit is able to create each backpack for $26.

“It’s going to cost $50,000 to run [Mission Backpack], so we continue to fundraise and apply for grants and supplement our fundraising from other projects,” Salice said.

As of press time, Mission Backpack has raised more than $18,000.

“Each backpack comes with 18 age-appropriate school supplies,” Salice told the Review.

She explained that each backpack is chosen with the student in mind. One of the styles are backpacks for students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Girls will receive bright colored backpacks, while boys will receive ones in grey and blue.

Students in sixth through 12th grade are given black and gray backpacks.

Mission Backpack’s goal is to fill more than 2,000 backpacks with school supplies for children in need. Photos courtesy Helpinghandsrye.org

“They’re as nondescript as possible,” said Brigitte Sarnoff, co-president of Helping Hands.

For the younger students, Salice said that their backpacks will include arts and crafts supplies like paper, crayons and colored pencils.

The older students receive supplies that include scientific calculators.
Sarnoff said they want to emphasize “the importance of having the correct school supplies to start the year, and what a difference it makes in a student’s life.”

Helping Hands works with 18 organizations in the county who help distribute the backpacks.

“We work through vendors and we buy basically [all] the same product,” Salice said. “That helps level the playing field so there isn’t comparisons when the backpacks are distributed.”

The backpack event lasts for two days. Beginning on Aug. 14, trucks will come to deliver supplies which are unloaded for the event. The second day is when the backpacks are assembled.

Salice reported that there are more than 250 volunteers who’ve already committed their weekend to lending a hand.

“It’s a really heartwarming day,” Salice said.

Sarnoff said it’s important to help make a student’s first day of school as easy as possible, and with Mission Backpack, they’re able to do that.

On Aug. 15, volunteers for Helping Hands for the Homeless & Hungry, a nonprofit that helps collect donations for families in need, will create assembly lines to fill backpacks for students.

“One of the real missions of Helping Hands is we really stress the dignity of the person receiving our services,” Sarnoff said.

Sarnoff explained that running Mission Backpack every year has been a learning process.

She said they work with the agencies that receive the backpacks to find out what supplies the students need most, and each year change the contents in the backpack based on those needs.

Sarnoff said that despite the efforts of Helping Hands, the need for these supplies continues to grow.

“The way to make the biggest impact is to make a donation so we can provide more supplies,” Salice said.

For more information on how to donate or become a volunteer, visit helpinghandsrye.org.

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