In the decade during which the Volunteers of America (VoA) has run its program, thousands of homeless children throughout South Jersey have gotten a helping hand packing for school in the fall.
The charity of neighbors in the region has allowed the normalcy of school supplies to help those children forget the “stigma of being homeless,” says Rebecca Fuller, director of communications for the Delaware Valley chapter of VoA, located in Collingswood.
More than that, Fuller says, it helps reinforce for such children and their families that even in the midst of their upheaval, some constants can be found.
“It gets them excited about going back to school,” Fuller says. “When you don’t have much, it’s a pretty big deal.”
According to a VoA press release on Operation Backpack, children who are either homeless or at risk of becoming so are likelier "to be placed in special education classes and to drop out of school."
Two years ago, the group rustled up 700 backpacks stuffed with school supplies; this year, Fuller hopes to hit 1000. To get there, she’s counting on an early push from families with a little extra to give their less fortunate counterparts.
“School is an important thing,” she says. “I do think it kind of puts an exclamation point on this idea.”
Lists vary by grade level, but Fuller says the stuff that’s needed most often is supplies for middle and high school children. Not interested in shopping? A suggested $25 donation can get the job done too.
Operation Backpack has several drop-off locations, including the and Haddonfield borough halls, the VoA offices on the White Horse Pike, the Aveda store in the Cherry Hill Mall, and Republic Bank in Haddonfield.
Additional drop-off locations will be available during the July 14 and August 11 Second Saturday events, and beginning July 27, Modell’s sporting goods locations.
The charity drive runs throughout the summer until the school year. Interested in helping? Call 856-854-4660.