More than 800 families, hundreds more than expected, signed up to get free backpacks and school supplies for their children as part of a giveaway program sponsored by a charitable organization in Bensonhurst on Aug. 23.
Thomas Neve, executive director of Reaching-Out Community Services Inc., said that he and his volunteers were able to purchase supplies for 500 kids as part of the group’s annual backpack giveaway on Thursday, but that more than 800 families registered for the distribution.
“We had to put people on a waiting list,” Neve told this newspaper as the backpack giveaway event was getting started on Thursday afternoon outside the offices of Reaching-Out Community Services at 7708 New Utrecht Ave.
As Neve spoke to a reporter, parents and their children patiently formed a line that stretch down the block in anticipation of the start of the backpack giveaway.
Neve said he hoped for donations to enable him to purchase 300 additional backpacks and enough school supplies to fill in the gap. “I hope somebody steps forward,” he added.
The goal of the backpack distribution event is to give children whose parents are struggling financially the chance to start the school year off right, Neve said.
The giveaway was an orderly affair. Dozens of volunteers stood behind tables piled high with backpacks, ready to hand each child one. Other tables were filled with boxes containing school supplies such as pens, pencils, notebooks, binders, loose leaf paper and rulers.
“We’re not looking to give the kids designer sneakers. We’re talking basic supplies,” Neve told this newspaper in an interview earlier this month.
Reaching-Out Community Services is a grassroots organization that operates a food pantry and offers social service referrals to residents having trouble making ends meet. Neve, a retired New York City sanitation worker, founded the organization in 1992.
The group has been conducting backpack giveaways for eight years.
The distribution is not open to the general public. Parents must have been previously registered as clients of Reaching-Out Community Services.
There are currently 9,000 families registered with the organization to receive assistance on a regular basis.
For more information, visit www.rcsprograms.org.