New York Today: The Gift of a Backpack


Gianna enjoying her last stretch of summer at Riverside Park.

Will Glaser/The New York Times

Good morning on this drizzly Thursday.

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Gianna is, in many ways, like most other 11-year-olds.

She’s enjoying her final month off before classes resume, wrapping up her summer reading and gearing up for her next chapter: middle school.

But while some school-age children and their parents may be using this time to cross off long back-to-school shopping lists, Gianna has nearly all that she needs: a backpack, filled with supplies, that was free.

This is peak season for Operation Backpack, a community service of Volunteers of America that gives children in homeless or domestic violence shelters new backpacks loaded with grade-specific supplies. The group is collecting new backpacks in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and parts of New Jersey through the end of the workweek, and is expecting to receive about 9,000 full bags from the public. The bags are inspected, sorted through and then distributed to schoolchildren living in shelters.

Gianna, whose last name we have omitted for privacy reasons, is one of those recipients.

She received her first knapsack from Operation Backpack last fall and described the day the children get their bookbags as a “celebration” that makes the start of school more exciting for those like her.

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“There’s going to be a lot of happy faces there,” she said.

“And no one else had that backpack,” she added.

But the purpose of the campaign is about more than giving out backpacks and supplies. It allows children to feel like every other child, not children in need. And it’s one less thing for homeless families in New York City to worry about when preparing for the school year.

“I’m feeling confident about sixth grade but also kind of nervous because the thing I’m afraid of is that the…

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