Voices of Caring – Project Backpack
Every month, hundreds of children in the St. Louis area are victims of domestic violence or neglect and must leave their homes. Many flee with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
Project Backpack’s Mission
Project Backpack’s mission is to help uprooted local children – usually victims of neglect and domestic violence. We are a local non-profit 501(c)(3) volunteer group that provides backpacks filled with personal necessities and comfort items to lift the spirits of these uprooted kids, from infants to teens. Every backpack is carefully filled with age and gender appropriate items. The backpacks are distributed to area police, social services, and shelters to give to the traumatized children to calm them and to give them things to wear, to use, to hold, and to call their very own. Backpacks are distributed without distinction by race, religion, sex, or nationality through St. Louis-area police departments, social service agencies, and shelters.
Why is Project Backpack needed?
When at-risk children are taken from their homes by police or social services, or arrive at a shelter, they are frightened and insecure. There seldom was time to gather up personal possessions. Project Backpack provides these children with needed items. The filled backpacks tell children that someone cares when their whole world is crashing around them.
It’s an important first step to help them smile again.
How many children does Project Backpack help?
The number of filled backpacks we distribute now often exceeds 250 per month, about 3,000 per year.
What goes into the backpacks?
Every backpack is filled with a combination of personal care items, clothing items, and other necessities plus a toy, book, game, or stuffed animal. The list varies by the age and gender of the child. For example, teen age children get deodorant and infant totes include diapers.
How the backpacks help children
In addition to meeting some short-term material needs, our filled backpacks help these traumatized and fragile children to handle a horrible reality. They are among strangers, in unfamiliar surroundings, and usually without anything of their own. The backpacks provide a tool to the social workers and police to use in approaching and calming them, and they let the children know that there really are people who care. We are told by the agencies we serve that the backpacks make a major difference towards helping them cope. We also get wonderful drawings and thank-you letters from some of the children.
What items are needed?
For legal reasons, all backpacks and items to fill them must be new/unused. The list is lengthy. Examples include clothing items such as sleep tees and socks, personal care items like toothbrushes and shampoo, basic school supplies, and comfort items such as stuffed animals or coloring books. Items vary by age and gender. Interested people/groups can check our website: projectbackpackstlouis.org for a list of needed items. Or they can call our office at 314-993-3033.
The need is on-going, 12 months a year, so we constantly need more new backpacks and items to fill them.
How do you get all the items sorted and into the appropriate backpacks?
We have frequent scheduled packing times at the warehouse, which is in space generously donated to us by Boys Hope Girls Hope. The dates are posted on our website. All packing is done by volunteers and is according to written lists and under supervision.
How can KMOX listeners help?
Project Backpack needs and appreciates help in several different forms:
- Donate items – often school groups, scout troops, churches and synagogues, etc. organize drives to collect new items.
- Volunteer to pack at the warehouse – We accept groups and individuals. Adults and children (over age 5) can help. Please phone ahead to 314-993-3033 to make arrangements for your group.
- Donate money. Money is used to buy needed items that have not been donated. Individuals can donate by check or securely online via PayPal on the “how to help” page on our website.
How can KMOX listeners get more information?
The easiest way is to visit our website: projectbackpackstlouis.org. There we have more information about our organization, a calendar of packing dates, the list of needed items, and directions for volunteers to reach our warehouse.