Hudson -- A large scale operation was launched July 20 to help combat the lack of backpacks, school supplies and confidence which comes with students having the proper equipment when starting a new school year.

The Volunteers of America of Greater Ohio's ninth-annual statewide Operation Backpack campaign runs through Aug. 9.

The campaign, which targets Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus, hopes to send more than 1,000 homeless and at-risk children back to school with backpacks and school supplies.

"Many families in need can't afford a backpack and new school supplies for their children, leaving them to face enormous challenges when going back to school," said Dennis Kresak, president and CEO of Volunteers of America of Greater Ohio. "Preparing kids with a backpack and school supplies eliminates this financial hurdle for families and sends children in need back to school with confidence, and the tools to succeed."

Volunteers of America's Operation Backpack relies on support from individuals, community groups and corporate drives for donations.

"Last year, we collected a total of nearly 2,000 backpacks and over 100 boxes of school supplies -- nearly 800 backpacks in Cleveland alone," according to Stephanie Aubill, marketing communications manager of Volunteers of America of Greater Ohio. "This year we hope to surpass those numbers and reach 1,000 donated backpacks and more boxes of supplies in the Greater Cleveland area."

Purchases like backpacks and school supplies are a financial hardship on many families who are homeless or poverty stricken, according to Aubill.

"Many homeless and at-risk children face hardships and stigmatization that other children do not face -- and as a result, less than 25 percent will end up graduating high school," Aubill said. "For a child who is homeless or at-risk of being homeless, a new backpack and school supplies means they can go to school feeling like a regular kid."

Volunteers of America is encouraging corporations and community groups to hold backpack drives and sign up for the 50-Pack Challenge by emailing OperationBackpack@voago.org.

Donation boxes are available at Volunteers of America Thrift Stores, select branches of the Cleveland Public Library, branches of Ohio Savings Bank, Levin Furniture locations, and Bartels Busack Pet Hospital Resort & Spa. School supply lists, drop locations and additional information can be found at www.OperationBackpackGO.org.

"The most important thing for people to realize is that when they donate a backpack, they are building a better future for a child in their community," Aubill said.

Volunteers of America is a national, non-profit, faith-based organization dedicated to helping those in need rebuild their lives and reach their full potential. For additional information visit Volunteers of America of Greater Ohio at www.voago.org.

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