By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
When school starts next month, hundreds of Brooklyn children will be ready for the first day of classes with backpacks filled with notebooks, pencils and other supplies, thanks to a charitable organization based in Bensonhurst.
Reaching-Out Community Services Inc., a non-profit organization that operates a food pantry and helps down on their luck residents with referrals to Medicaid, Social Security and other government programs, is seeking donations for its “Big Backpack Giveaway Event” to take place on Aug. 24 outside its headquarters at 7708 New Utrecht Ave.
Donations are being accepted to enable Executive Director Tom Neve and volunteers to purchase backpacks and school supplies for 400 children whose families are registered with Reaching-Out Community Services.
The organization is asking residents to sponsor a child for the school supplies program. Information about the backpack giveaway can be found on the group’s website, rcsprograms.org.
The backpacks will be presented to the children at the giveaway event on Aug. 24. New York City public schools open on Sept. 9.
This year marks the third annual backpack giveaway held by Reaching-Out Community Services.
“We’re trying to ease the pain for parents who can’t afford to buy school supplies for their kids. When you can’t afford to buy food to feed your family, you can’t afford to get school supplies,” Neve told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
“We’re also doing it so that kids can feel like they can fit into society,” Neve said.”It’s hard enough to be a kid and to see your parents going through hard times. It’s worse when you go to school and see all of the other kids with everything they need. You feel left out, apart from everybody,” he said.
Neve and a group of helpers will purchase the school supplies and will fill each backpack a few days before the giveaway event. “We’re just providing basic supplies; a spiral notebook, pens, pencils, and paper,” Neve said.
Representatives from Health Plus, the health insurance program for the underprivileged, will be on hand at the backpack event. Investors Bank is a sponsor of the event.
Neve, a former city sanitation worker, founded Reaching-Out Community Services 24 years ago. “I was working for the city and I saw there was so much need out there. People were really hurting. They still are,” he said. Over the past 10 years, he has seen a large increase in the number of people coming to the organization for help. “A lot of people don’t even know that hunger exists in their community. But it’s here. People are hungry,” he said.
Reaching-Out Community Services currently assists more than 5,000 people from the five boroughs. The organization is perhaps best known in Bensonhurst for its food pantry. The pantry operates like a supermarket. Rather than hand food items to clients as a charity gesture, Neve allows them to use shopping carts and select the items they want.
On Sept. 28, the organization will sponsor Walk Against Hunger a walk to raise awareness of the issue of hunger. The walk will begin at the Knights of Columbus Hall at 1305 86th St. at 11 a.m.
Participants will walk along 13th Avenue and then return to the hall. Registration will begin at 9:45 a.m. Information about the event can be found on the group’s website.