Back to School. Where to Give and Get Free Supplies

| August 21, 2012 4:00 AM

Next to the sale season that spans Black Friday to Christmas, back-to-school shopping is the country’s second biggest spending festival of the year, according to the National Retail Federation. This year, shoppers are expected to spend an average of $688 for back-to-school supplies.

Many organizations, from charities to cultural groups to eateries, are helping ease the financial for burden for parents and give kids a good start to their school year.  Here are some community giveaway events related to school supplies, as well as year-round material exchange programs that match those seeking donations with those who have surplus supplies or services to donate.

Free School Supply Giveaways for Families

Kids receive free backpacks at the Back-2-School event in 2011, Jersey City. Photo Courtesy of ICNA.

Back 2 School Giveaway, Citywide, Yonkers and Jersey City
This nationwide back-to-school giveaway campaign began when the New York chapter of the  Islamic Circle of North America [ICNA] held a local campaign in 2009, giving out free school bags filled with supplies for the new school year.  The goal is to help children throughout the country, no matter their race, religion or gender. The organizers have 25,000 school bags ready for this year’s distribution, which will be set up across 12 states and over 25 locations, including New York City and Jersey City. No registration is required.

  • Aug. 24, 5–7 p.m. at 3940 Broadway, Manhattan
  • Aug. 25, 10 a.m.–12 p.m. at Andalusia School, 380 Walnut St., Yonkers
  • Aug. 25, 1–3 p.m. at 2812 Voorhies Ave., Brooklyn
  • Aug. 25, 2–4 p.m. at MAS-UNY Bronx Muslim Center, 702  Rhinelander Ave., Bronx
  • Aug. 26, 11 a.m. — 1 p.m. at 1266 Bedford Ave., Brooklyn
  • Aug. 31, 5–7 p.m. at 25-15 Steinway St., Queens
  • Sept. 1, 2–5 p.m. at ICNA, 180 Ege Ave., Jersey City
  • Sept 2, 11 a.m.–1 p.m. at Albanian Islamic Cultural Center, 307 Victory Blvd., Staten Island
  • Sept. 2, 1–3 p.m. at 865 Coney Island Ave., Brooklyn

Get involved: Volunteer for the program’s future events by handing out school supplies and finding sponsors, or provide assistance through direct donations.


Kids, parents and Elmo enjoy a Habana Outpost block party in May 2012. Photo courtesy of Habana Outpost.

Habana Outpost, Brooklyn
After hosting kids events on its large patio all summer, Habana Outpost in Fort Greene, Brooklyn,  will send kids off to school with its fifth annual Back-to-School Bash on Labor Day.  The Latin eatery’s mission of bringing people together over food and good times includes respect for the arts, environment and community.  In addition to receiving free school supplies, kids can warm up their art class skills with activities involving recycled arts and crafts.
Date & Time: Sept. 3 (Labor Day), 11 a.m.-3 p.m. 
Location: 757 Fulton Street, Brooklyn


Poster of the "Family Affair" back-to-school party at Bronx Museum of the Arts.

Family Affair: Back to School, Bronx
All are welcomed at the “Family Affair” Back to School Drive at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, where free backpacks along with other school supplies will be given to children ages 12 and under.  One of the day’s partners is I Can Because I’m A Girl, founded by Flora “LaPoeta” Montes,  a native Bronx poet and a chef.  Stick around for food-making and arts activities that are part of  the afternoon.  All kids must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. It’s recommended to register in advance  online or by calling (718) 681-600 (ext.127).

Date & Time: Aug. 25, 1 — 4 p.m.
Location: The Bronx Museum of the Arts, 1040 Grand Concourse, Bronx
Get involved: Below are three locations where you can drop off donated supplies that will be distributed:

  • La Casa Azul Bookstore, 143 E. 103rd St., Manhattan
  • El Fogon Center for the Arts, 989 Home St., Bronx
  • The Bronx Museum of the Arts, 1040 Grand Concourse at 165th St., Bronx


Free Educational Supplies for Schools & Where to Donate


A teacher adds art prints to her shopping cart, stocking for the back-to-school season at MFTA's Long Island City warehouse. Photo courtesy of MFTA.

Materials for the Arts
Materials for the Arts (MFTA), run by NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, provides thousands of the city’s arts and cultural organizations, public schools and community arts programs with the supplies they need to run and expand their programs. All materials are collected from companies and individuals who no longer need them but want to make them available to artists and educators for free. The program only serves organizations in the five boroughs of New York City. Registered organization are invited to make an appointment to “shop” the Long Island City warehouse on Tuesday mornings and Thursday afternoons. MFTA also has a  shopping evening on the first Monday of every month.


NYC WasteMatch

NYC WasteMatch doesn’t pass waste around but actually prevents waste. Created and funded by the NYC Dept. of Sanitation, this website facilitates the exchange of used and surplus goods and equipment between organizations that no longer need them to others that do. Schools and other qualified organizations can directly ask for needed items on the listings page, and if you happen to have something available, don’t hesitate to let others know. This waste-match approach lowers both the purchase and waste disposal cost, and also helps reduce the environmental impact. Since starting in 1997, NYC WasteMatch estimates it has kept over 25,000 tons of materials out of landfills and helped participants achieve $4 million in savings and revenues.


If you or your company have goods or services to donate to a New York City public school, list them on the PENCIL Box, where a deserving school can easily search for  items in the online database. The site collects all kinds of items ranging from computer equipment to consulting services. Books, musical instruments, furniture, computers, science equipment and art supplies are among the resources always in demand. If you’d like to get further involved with school partnerships, the core mission of PENCIL Box is to match business volunteers with school principals and to provide students with career readiness training through internships and more.


A group of students express their gratitude to the donors after receiving needed supplies. Photo courtesy of Donors Choose.

Donors Choose
This online nationwide charity plugged by Oprah and Stephen Colbert is the brainchild of a former Bronx social studies teacher, now the CEO of Donors Choose. Charles Best and his colleagues were frustrated with the scarcity of learning materials available to their students and often spent their own money on extra supplies. Since 2000, Donors Choose has given teachers and students a broader network of support. Public school teachers post project requests on the site, and donors can browse and give any amount to the one that inspires them. Once the project reaches its funding goal, the site will deliver the materials to the school. All donors can track how each dollar was spent, receive photos of the project taking place, and handwritten thank you letters from the teachers or students.

Adopt A Classroom

By registering at Adopt-A-Classroom, teachers can post their classrooms available for donors to select. All donations are directed to the teacher in the form of online credit, which can be used at affiliate vendors partnered with the organization, such as OfficeMax. Once adopted, the teacher purchases resources to meet the classroom needs, and the process is entirely transparent to donors as well.


In our comments section, please add your tips and suggestions about organizations or services that help provide supplies and services to schools, teachers and students in need.


  • LaDaina Williams

    Hello I live in albany me and my chapter will be having a back to school cook out for the community kids we wold love to know were we can sign up to.get these supplies for the kid please someone contact me asap @dainawilliams715@yahoo.could

  • aisha87

    Hi my name is Aisha an I’m a coach for a youth football and cheerleading team the bronx steelers. I wanted to know how can we sign up for school supplies. These kids work hard and with ur help we can help them prepare for school.. I can be reach at

  • khalid nazir

    Hello Dear Respectable Sir/Madam!

    I am Khalid
    Nazir president of Holy Help Welfare Society from Rawalpindi Pakistan. I and my other friends since last 3 years
    ourselves help for poor families and orphan children. But we can’t help
    everybody because we have not more sources to help all them. When our team goes on survey we touch poor
    peoples and known their problems and troubles we want to do something. So we
    decide we make a Welfare Society and register and try to help poor peoples.

    Now we
    registered HOLY HELP WELFARE SOCIETY and start our work in our local area Chack
    Jalal Din Girja Road (Union council 17) Rawalpindi. When we start survey April
    2013, we understands our areas people’s problems and difficult. And we known
    people are difficult life. We survey our area and found here many problem same
    like pure water, schools for poor children and Pregnant women and Child care

    We are trying to
    solve these problems, but we have not sources to provide every child education,
    food and good life. So we think share our difficult with others. Please come ahead and catch our hand and help
    us to solve these problems.

    1. 170 People have not food and

    2. People have not clean water for
    drink. They drink dirty water and face the hepatitis diseases.

    3. More
    than 450 children are not go to school because their presents have no money and
    work, they want their children go to school but they have not power.

    4. Many people have no home and they
    lives in tent.

    5. Pregnant poor women and new birth
    baby have not any free hospital and baby care center.

    we open Holy Help English School System and give free education, uniform, books
    and copies for poor and orphan children.
    More than 190 children study in our school and 120 give us applications
    for admission. we need furniture and
    books copies and uniform for our students.

    request to you please help us to purchased uniform, books, copies and furniture
    for needy children and give free education more children.

    visit our school and checked.

    Madam! Really
    when we meet for peoples in survey I am cry, I don’t know who to helps them? It’s
    all true’s who we look and write to you. However we request you if you can do help us
    please come ahead. And if you need any prove please tell us, we will try to
    provide you. And if you want to visit our area please welcome.

    We are new for
    this field and we face many problems. We
    have a rent office but not furniture, computer, website.

    I request you
    please take notes our appeal and do something for poor peoples.


    Khalid Nazir


    Holy Help
    Welfare Society (Registration no. RJSC/DISTT RWP/F 3580/26)


    Add: Sada road. Quarshi abad. Girja Road .Chack
    Jalal Din. P.O.Tench Batta. Rawalpindi 46000 Pakistan.

    Contact. 0092
    315 5088737. 0092 51 5682111

  • chapman

    hi i live in charleston wv and i know of a mother who has three children that need help with bookbags and supplies does anyone know of where i can tell her to go ?

  • Concerned citizen and parent

    I went to the 3940 Broadway, manhattan, “supply give a away” (for needy families) today sunday the 24th, there was NO ONE there, NO SIGN posted on the doors of: what happened, if it got rescheduled..or cancelled or if the supplies finished ??? the doors were locked and I saw no one. I went with my children all the way from the Bronx and who ever is in charge of the organization has to contact ME and I will like an APOLOGY because: like I said I went for the event on this very day and the doors where sign of the event anywhere, this cannot BE !!! families showing up for nothing!!!! There was another lady with their children there too…please someone in charge of todays event contact me:
    ” Who ever is reading this: if you go to any of the events “be very careful” they are NOT giving away any of the 25,000 backpacks they say they have for needy families”


    Hello my name is Itricka Bartholomew I’am THE Youth Director and Dance leader of GREATER ZION FIELD FAMILY WORSHIP CENTER. I have spoken to my pastor about give away school supplies and I was asked can i get 100 packs of different school supplies and i told him yes, but i’Am trusting GOD TO HELP ME ACCOMPLISH A DREAM COME TRUE . I WILL LIKE TO KNOW HOW DO I SIGN UP TO GET FREE SCHOOL SUPPLIES BY AUGUST 1ST PLEASE CAN SOMEONE HELP ANY THING WILL BE A HELP.THANK GOD BLESS FROM WESTWEGO,LA 1417 TANGLEWOOD APT D 70094 ITRICKAHOLLINS@YAHOO.COM

  • Beverly Brown

    Hi. I live in St Albans Queen NY and I host a health fair at my local church. This year I am trying to get donations of books, pens and school bags to give to the local kids. Can any one point me in the right direction where I can get these donations.
    Thanks contact me at

  • john

    hi im john and i well need bookbags for my kids and school supplies because im in need right now so if u could be nice and get my kids some stuff pleses and thank u.taracarommmlol@itrickabartholomew:disqus and heres my address tampa florida 1218 E 138 ave aptC

  • Ariana Gonzalez

    I am battling stage three Triple Negative Breast Cancer. Unfortunately am currently fighting this monster we call Cancer. So therefore I am unable to work I have 5 five awesome kids whom all have been granted scholarships. To put the icing on the cake we were robbed about two weeks ago so now we have no funds to buy any school supples or uniforms. We have nothing please help us

  • Miriam

    Hello I live in Brooklyn NY red hook projects west and I’m planning a back to school cookout for the Kidd and I’m trying to get some donates for the children things like nooks bookbags pens pencils golfers some uniforms and clothing for the children if anyone is willing to donate I would greatly appreciate any and all donations. The event is 8/29/2015. On Dwight between Richard and ostegao. Please come out and support our block thank you.

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