The Back-to-School Drive


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Building a path out of poverty with backpacks 

Did you know:  One out of every four Bay Area children now lives below the poverty line?  By the 3rd grade, these students are, on average, already two years behind their peers in reading and math. (And, early reading has been identified as key to future success in STEAM-related subjects.)

At retail, a backpack with school and STEAM-based supplies can range from $65 (Elementary) to $100 (High School). For those living under the federal poverty line, often there are no funds left over for books and school supplies - even the basics of pencils and paper.  When these supplies are not available in the home, homework often goes undone.

The price children pay for their families’ financial situation undermines their education in other ways, too. It destabilizes their self-esteem and confidence and can create emotional trauma and personal issues that negatively affect performance in school and beyond.

“Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.”
     –– George Washington Carver

The need is great

Although you wouldn't know it, given the economic strength of Silicon Valley and the visible signs of incredible wealth all around, hundreds of thousands of student live on the edge of survival. What we call the "Shadow of Success" is very real in the Bay Area and low-income families struggle to make ends meet, living paycheck to paycheck. There just isn't enough for school supplies and a backpack to carry them in. How "real" is the situation? Very. Students in grades K – 12 who qualify for free or reduced-price meals through the National Free or Reduced-price Meal Program are eligible to receive a backpack. For the 2019-20 school year, the average qualifying threshold for a family of 4 is $40,000 annually in a state where a family earning $117,000 or less is considered low income.  $117,000? Yes, $117,000. So while prosperity is evident all around the more hidden need continues to balloon. 

Breaking down barriers with backpacks

The Family Giving Tree’s annual Back-to-School drive was launched in 1995 with the goal of closing the educational gap for in-need K-12 students. New backpacks full of essential, grade-appropriate school supplies are collected and delivered to Bay Area students, most of them also qualifying for the Free and Reduced Lunch Meal Program, via Bay Area schools and agencies. In 2019 alone, 41,648 backpacks were distributed through 257 partner schools and agencies.  However, this generous donation figure represents about only 11% of the total need as there are nearly 350,000 students in the Bay Area alone that qualify to receive a backpack. We still need to do more.

How you can help

Donate Now—Your generous donations allow us to bulk-purchase gifts and expand our reach
Lead a Drive —Organize your own backpack and school supply drive with your corporation or social club
Volunteer—Help us sort and prepare backpacks for our recipient schools and nonprofits
Sponsor—Be recognized for playing a key role in the success of our program

“Your support will help our students learn, succeed, and be the first in their family to go to college. These backpacks filled a huge need for our students.”       
     –– G Reyes, Co-Principal of Organizational Development at ARISE High School, Back-to-School recipient 

 With your generosity, we will continue to grow both the number of students served as well as the resources offered.

Thank you for helping us bring joy and learning to those in need.