Stuff a Backpack

Do you remember back-to-school shopping when you were a child? The lists, the trying on clothes, the quest for the perfect backpack. Or did you go to school when all we needed was a tablet, slate and a pencil? Either way, we never went to school empty-handed. Let’s MAD about school supplies.

This year more than 28 million children will go to school without the school supplies they need to complete the year. Read that again…

28 million children

They are not going to have the school supplies they need to finish class and homework. How much of the grade is homework where you live?


School supplies are not always cheap.


Could be half a week’s wages…

Fulfilling an average school supply list costs between $20 and $100, depending on the grade level of the child. Some high school students need a bit more than that to have everything they need for advanced classes.

Families living paycheck to paycheck struggle with these costs.

Some small towns need the tax revenue from back to school shopping to balance late summer budgets, especially in non-tourism towns.


Children who have the supplies they need to do their work are more confident. These children are less likely to be picked on by bullies who exploit poverty vulnerability. Self-confidence produces better academic achievement.

Poverty does not discriminate based on IQ. Some of the smartest children are born to parents who cannot afford to adequately equip them to succeed in school.


Low income children are less likely to have school supplies readily available at home. New markers, pencils and paper can get them excited to go back to school. A new backpack is as cool as having a new jacket.


Children who get better grades in school are more likely to be productive members of society, contribute more to their communities and raise children who are more successful. Giving the gift of a good education is a generational bequeath.

Made A Difference.

You DO Make A Difference!

Whether you choose the personal, school or community approach, you can make a difference in the success of low income students where you live. These are the children who will become the doctors, firefighters, dentists, police, nursing home staff and community leaders of tomorrow.

1. Choose a family.

You can donate school supplies to a family. If you know of one through your workplace or house of worship, donate to them. If you do not personally know of someone, call the local school nearest you, the soup kitchen, women’s shelter, foster agency or a local house of worship. They will have lists of low income and vulnerable families.

2. Choose a school.

If you are not comfortable giving directly to a family, call the local school (elementary, middle or high school). Ask them which grades have students who need school supplies. Do not be surprised when the receptionist laughs and tells you all of them.

3. Join a community effort.

The Volunteers of America run campaigns in major cities to provide school supplies to needy children. Search “VOA” plus your town or county to find the nearest drive site for the Stuff a Bus campaign.

Each year, VOA delivers school buses to big box and office supply stores for patrons to drop off purchased school supplies. The goal is to fill the bus completely full. These items are donated to the local school district for distribution throughout the school system.

Other local entities take donations of supplies all year to give aid to low income families.

4. Gather your team.

Get together with your friends, family, team mates, neighbors, fellow worshipers. Pool your money and buy in bulk. You can make your money go further.

5. Go to the school’s website.

Get a list of school supplies for the grade levels you want to help. Print them. Lists are also available at big box and office supply stores.

6. Make your own list.

If you cannot find the lists on the school district’s website, purchase from the following list:

  1. One gender-specific backpack
  2. Six pocket folders
  3. Three wide-ruled, single subject notebooks
  4. Two packs filler paper
  5. One two-inch three-ring binder
  6. One calculator
  7. One package (10) medium ball point pens (blue or black)
  8. One package (3) medium red ball point pens
  9. One box colored pencils
  10. One box #2 pencils
  11. One box washable markers
  12. One pencil sharpener
  13. One one-foot ruler
  14. One pencil box or bag

For elementary school children in kindergarten through second grade, skip #3-8 and replace with the following:

  1. Two boxes (24) crayons
  2. One box (8) large crayons
  3. One package construction paper
  4. One elementary writing tablet
  5. One pink eraser
  6. One package (3+) glue sticks
  7. One pair safety scissors

Pack the backpack with the supplies.

7. Happily deliver.

Take your supplies to the bus, where available, and gladly hand it over to the volunteers.  Some stores will have a bin inside the door to drop supplies to be transferred to the buses when they are scheduled to arrive.

Take your supplies directly to the school. Many are open now with a skeleton crew readying the halls for the children. They will be overjoyed to see you come bearing gifts.

8. Just send money.

School districts across America are taking donations earmarked for school supplies. If you know a teacher, administrator or aide, ask about the donation program for your district. With their tax advantage and discount, they can buy bulk supplies for less cost than individuals.

Mark your check memo line with student school supplies. Specify “student” if you do not want to provide office supplies for teachers and staff, but want to support children in need.

9. Volunteer.

If you cannot afford to give, share your time organizing donating materials, delivering them to schools or organizing a drive for others to give.

Why now?

School begins in most of the southern half of the United States in mid-August. The rest of the country begins immediately after Labor Day (first week of September). School supplies gathered now can be delivered to the schools to cut down the total number of supplies parents will need to buy for the children in the entire school.

Because each year, Americans donate school supplies, big box stores currently have school supplies for sale at the back to school prices not historically set until August. This means more for your dollar…now.

You DO Make A Difference!

By donating school supplies you are taking a burden off of a low income family, providing a positive back to school experience for a child and making a positive impact on your community now and in the future. You are leveling the playing field for a child.


Have you ever donated to a back to school campaign? Would you take the burden of back to school shopping away from a family in need? Will you MAD for a child by donating school supplies?

Author’s Note: I have participated in back to school drives since high school. Rode the buckboard right to the school house with the fixin’s. In 2002, a store in which I worked managed to fill three school buses with supplies. We had to take things out to get a driver IN to drive it away.

One year, I could only afford two backpacks. The principal of the school called a brother and sister into the office. Both were terrified they were in trouble the first day of school. I do not care how strong you are. Seeing a child cry when you hand them a backpack filled with new things will melt you. To date, the thank you note I received is one of my favorites.

(c) Red Dwyer 2012
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  1. Hi Red, I remember cringing when I had to pay for supplies for my children. It wasn’t always easy. I am happy to say our community, and my workplace, do the same kinds of events to help kids get ready for school. Backpacks with supplies, and haircut drives! What a great message to share with everyone.

    • I adore the haircut day! There are about 10 stylists here who go to all the elementary schools and give free haircuts at the beginning of school. What a great way to help raise self-esteem! Glad to see you today, Colleen.

  2. Wow!.. this brings home to me just how expensive it is to buy supplies today and just what is neededs during a school term..
    Luckily for me when my children were in school here in the UK I didnt have to get them many extras the school supplied near enough all the essentials.. We just had to supply the writing and art work and rulers etc and calulators ,..
    Now I know todays Schooling is changing even here in the UK.. along with the homework loads and assignments they are given…
    Your suggestions here Red are a great idea to pool resources and help kit out your children cheaply…
    I just love dropping in on your Blog Red.. Im always learning.. and often feel like a child myself as your wealth of knowledge highlights many great causes …

    So thanks for educating a Dreamer!!! 😉 Hugs Sue x
    Sue Dreamwalker recently posted..Treat the Earth and Each other Well.My Profile

    • Oh, Sue, what a lovely compliment. I have always been an advocate, and over the years, I have discovered a lot of ways to make our societies better places to live. The majority of them are doing what you profess on your blog: Respecting one another and where we live. Great to see you today, Sue {HUGZ} Red. xxx

  3. Hi Red,
    Excellent post topic, as always. I can remember remember struggling to get the school supplies for my own when they were going to school. It’s great that they have these drives now, so we can all help…hands helping hands.
    When I was a child all we needed was a ruler, pencils, eraser (a big one…lol) pencil case, paper and binder.
    Have a great weekend sugah!
    Hugs xx
    Deb recently posted..T.G.I.F.My Profile

    • When I was in school, we needed about three times what was on the list I put here. This is about half what the schools here expected for the little ones. I know of this one sweet little lady who cannot afford to stuff a whole backpack. Every year at the start of the terms, she delivers crayons and pencils and handmade pencil bags. She is making a huge difference in my eyes. Have a fabulous weekend! It isn’t supposed to be storming in your neck of the woods this weekend, is it? {HUGZ} Red. xxx

      • No, only a 30% chance of rain, which is not much for around here. Think we may head to the beach in the morning.
        Good night, and I’ll see you talk at ya tomorrow.
        Hugs xx
        Deb recently posted..T.G.I.F.My Profile

  4. A nobel cause to be sure. I have been so fortunate in my life. I can’t imagine not being able to have access to everything I need to learn and grow. Thanks for the eye-opener.


    • Good to see you tonight, Tim. This is one which means quite a bit to me. Most of us either cannot imagine doing without or remember the struggle to provide for our children. I think both camps are certainly qualified to help out.

      Next time, check the CommentLuv box on your comment, so we have a link to your latest post 😉

  5. Thanks. I hope it’s not too late to check the box.
    tim keen recently posted..The Day I DecidedMy Profile

  6. School starts here in the desert.. the 23rd of July. I used to think it was silly but its so damn hot that the kids would end up inside on the couch playin video games anyways. Then they get a 2 week break in October when it cools down.

    The school supplies are provided for the most part, by the school which is actually supplemented by classroom parents… I would love to organize a drive or collection…hmmm

    I used to love having new crayons and stuff so I try to get my kids the pencil box they want or something that excites them… and it eally isn;t ever much.. but it does make a difference.

    THe schools here are sending out calls for supplies all year long.. and the end o he year..last quarter is really scarce. But there is also the opportunity to MAD all year or if you can’t do it now… you can do it during the year… Right? I usually send stuff after Spring Break, the teachers send out the ists at the beginning of the year and we check it out and decide what we are going to do and save for as much as we can. Some years it has been a lot, some years not so much but it is every year. Period.
    Lots of Love
    Lizzie Cracked recently posted..Opinions are like… Mid-Afternoon Mental MomentMy Profile

  7. Great ideas Red!
    Easy to forget (amid so many worthy causes) that this is one of the worthiest.
    El Guapo recently posted..Friday Foolishness – Kelvin editionMy Profile

    • Thank you, Guapo. You know I am going to support children’s causes no matter what. For me, this is an easy one.

  8. This is absolutely fantastic, Red. I would never have thought of such… Who comes up with these ideas? Just great. My father never bought all we needed, and when I got to working in the milk bar, well, he said I could buy my own supplies for the next year. It IS expensive. This is just a great cause…

    Anyway! I’ve come by to let you know I’ve given you an award in my post today. I’ve put a handful your way actually, for you to choose which you want – It was too much divvying them up. You are worthy of them all, so choose as you will 🙂 I don’t have the pictures for all the awards – only the sisterhood & the reader one, so if you want either, let me know. But in the least, it’s a bit of exposure for your brilliant site 🙂
    Noeleen recently posted..DRINK DRIVINGMy Profile

    • Oh, thank you, darling. Would you like the graphics for the ones you do not have? I can send them to you or you can go to The Trophy Room and steal them. The Sisterhood is the only one I do not have. And I accept it humbly. I hope you like my reception comment at your place 😉


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