Hundreds of Brooklyn kids whose parents are struggling financially will still be able to start school in style next month, thanks to a non-profit group that is organizing a backpack giveaway to take place next week.
Reaching-Out Community Services Inc. will hold a backpack giveaway on Aug. 23 for children from families registered in the organization’s food pantry program.
Located at 7708 New Utrecht Ave. in Bensonhurst, Reaching-Out Community Services (RCS) is a multi-purpose group that operates a food pantry and offers social service referrals to residents having trouble making ends meet.
Thomas Neve, the group’s founder and executive director, said he has enough backpacks to distribute to children for Operation Backpack, but is seeking donations of school supplies, including pens, pencils, notebooks, binders, loose leaf paper, and rulers.
“We have the backpacks. We always go out and buy them ahead of time. But we want to make sure the kids have something to put in the backpacks, so we need supplies,” Neve told this newspaper on Aug. 14.
Neve said he expects to hand out at least 500 backpacks on Aug. 23.
Anyone interested in making a donation can drop off school supplies at RCS at 7708 New Utrecht Ave. The office is open Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
RCS has been conducting backpack giveaways for eight years.
The backpack giveaway is not open to the public. But the day is usually a busy one for kids, Neve said. At the events held in previous years, children were given backpacks at the door and were then invited to visit tables that were set up with school supplies so that they could fill their new backpacks with the items they needed to start off the school year right.
“We’re not looking to give the kids designer sneakers. We’re talking basic supplies,” Neve said.
Children must come from families who are already registered as clients of RCS to be eligible to take part in the backpack giveaway.
Neve, a retired New York City sanitation worker, founded RCS in 1992 and immediately began operating a food pantry. In 1996, the pantry became the first of its kind to operate like a supermarket. Under the system, patrons are allowed to select the items they want to take home to eat, as opposed to other charitable pantries in which food items are given to recipients by workers.
RCS was an outgrowth of charitable efforts Neve had made earlier. Starting in 1989, he drove a van around Bensonhurst on his time off from work and gave food to the homeless.
Within a few years, RCS expanded its services to provide additional help for struggling residents, including assistance applying for food stamp benefits and other government programs.
There are currently 9,000 families registered with RCS that receive assistance on a regular basis.
For more information about the backpack distribution event, visit www.rcsprograms.org or call the group’s Events Hotline at 917-509-9055.