While many people were doing their back-to-school shopping or getting in some final summer fun time, Volunteers for The Sharing Shelf in Port Chester were busy filling 400 backpacks with school supplies that will be distributed to needy children so they can be prepared for the new school year.
, program coordinator of , a program run by Family Services of Westchester in Port Chester, set a goal of doubling the that were filled and distributed in 2011.
“We doubled our goal from last year, and with the help of so many volunteers and retailers, we were able to get the supplies and backpacks we needed,” says Blatt. “Now 400 school children throughout the county will be able to go to school feeling good knowing they have the supplies they need.”
Throughout the year, The Sharing Shelf program, founded by Blatt in 2009, collects new and gently used children’s clothing then distributes the clothing to more than 1,500 needy children a year at no cost to the children or their families. The “Backpacks to School” project is an extension of these efforts and fills a need among underprivileged students throughout Westchester County, who often start the school year without necessary supplies.
The backpacks now go to area organizations and agencies that work one-on-one with families so the school supplies can get to families in time for the start of school next week.
Helping meet this year’s goal were 30 volunteers from the law firm Traub Lieberman Straus & Shrewsberry LLP in Hawthorne. Employees and their families made donations and volunteered their time to fill 120 elementary school backpacks with folders, composition books, scissors, pencils, markers, crayons, glue and erasers.
At The Sharing Shelf warehouse in Port Chester, volunteers packed 250 middle and high school backpacks, which in addition to basic supplies, included computer thumb drives and scientific calculators.
“We had one couple donate 100 flash drives for the high school bags when they learned we needed them,” said Blatt.
New and gently-used scientific calculators were also donated by volunteers and by students and faculty members at Iona Prep in New Rochelle. Numerous retailers offered gift cards, discounts and in-kind donations, including Astoria Federal Savings & Loan, Target (Mt. Kisco, White Plains), Staples, Value Drug (Eastchester), Lakeshore Learning and Stop & Shop (North White Plains). The Sharing Shelf also participated in a county-wide effort at the Ridge Hill mall in Yonkers, collecting school supplies and financial donations from shoppers.
The backpacks have been requested by more than a dozen programs for students in New Rochelle, White Plains, Port Chester, Yonkers, Greenburgh, Ossining, Shrub Oak and Mahopac.
Financial donations and some supplies, including three-ring binders, are still needed to fill some remaining backpacks. Supplies can be dropped off from 9 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday at FSW’s Port Chester headquarters at One Gateway Plaza, 4th Floor, across from the Open Door and next to Stop & Shop, or at FSW’s White Plains office at One Summit Ave, 2nd floor reception.
Checks can be made out to FSW/The Sharing Shelf and mailed to Family Services of Westchester, One Gateway Plaza, Port Chester, NY 10573. To make a credit card donation, residents can go to FSW’s website at www.fsw.org and click on donate on the home page or call Deborah Wilson at (914) 305-6876. Please indicate that the donation is for The Sharing Shelf/Backpacks drive. To learn how you can help with the Backpack Drive or volunteer at The Sharing Shelf, contact Deborah Blatt at firstname.lastname@example.org or (914) 355-9121.
Founded in 1954 and headquartered in Port Chester, Family Services of Westchester runs more than 50 social service and mental health programs that reach 30,000 children, teens, adults and families a year. The non-profit’s programs run the gamut from adoption services to elder care, from home health care to youth residences and include chapters of such national programs as Big Brothers Big Sisters, Head Start and AmeriCorps. The agency’s 450 employees and 350 volunteers operate out of seven offices through the county.