10 organizations helping Pittsburgh kids get back to school

To say that back-to-school efforts are a little more challenging this year is quite an understatement. But whether kids are attending in-person classes or signing in online from home, they still need school supplies to get their work done. Back-to-school needs have expanded beyond paper and pencils in 2020. Items like a laptop, headphones and a stylus are included. Touch-free donation dropoffs and pickups are another consideration.

Pittsburgh organizations continue to impress by stepping up their efforts. These groups have managed to pivot to meet the ever-changing needs and challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic.

Here are 10 organizations helping to ease the back-to-school transition:

1. The Education Partnership

The Education Partnership provides classroom items for students and teachers in low-income districts throughout the seven-county region of Southwestern Pennsylvania. This year, the nonprofit will be supporting 142 schools, which equates to 5,500 teachers and nearly 55,000 pupils. That comes to $6 million in essential school supplies.

In response to the pandemic, the organization has placed a focus on collecting laptops and tablets for at-home schooling. At the same time, The Education Partnership continues to help little kids with usual supplies like crayons, pencils and paper.

August is filled with events to support the partnership’s mission. Some highlights include:

Aug. 15: The Education Partnership, Jerome Bettis with The Bus Stops Here Foundation, and Computer Reach are hosting a Pack the Bus event. Participants can help fill two yellow buses with new and used laptops or tablets at Stage AE’s parking lot. Laptops also can be dropped off at The Education Partnership or ComputerReach.

Aug. 17: Laptops and tablets will be collected at Citizen’s Bank Branch locations inside local Giant Eagle stores. These laptops will be wiped, refurbished and distributed to students who need laptops for school.

Throughout August: Collected items can be delivered from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays at The Education Partnership, 281 Corliss St Pittsburgh, PA 15220.

Always: Individuals can donate 100% virtually through RightGift, a free platform that allows donors to select supplies and ship directly to The Education Partnership.

2. National Council of Jewish Women Pittsburgh

For the past five years, the National Council of Jewish Women Pittsburgh operated its Back-to-School Store. The effort helped underserved kids start school on an equal footing with their peers by “shopping” for new supplies and clothing at no cost. The store could not operate this year due to COVID-19. But the organization quickly reacted to reinvent the program as the year-round Kids Community Closet. NCJW will work with schools and agency partners to identify kids with needs and coordinate check-in times. The closet will help with school supplies, personal care items and clothing. Volunteers also filled 1,000 backpacks with supplies, winter gloves and hats to be distributed to kids this month.

3. Pittsburgh Public Schools

The eighth-annual #PittsburghforPPS Back to School Event will be held on Friday, Aug. 21, at PNC Park. The celebration welcomes all Pittsburgh Public School students and their families to drive up to grab a bookbag with essential supplies and receive food distribution. Or, they can hang out (with social distancing) to enjoy music, eats and browse through lots of school-based resources.

4. North Hills Community Outreach

Since 1987, North Hills Community Outreach has been helping families in the northern suburbs work through tough times, which includes the back-to-school crunch. The organization is collecting new backpacks, notebooks, color pencils, scissors, pencil boxes and other school supplies. Dropoff locations include all NHCO offices and other community locations.

5. South Hills Interfaith Movement

For over 50 years, South Hills Interfaith Movement has been providing food, clothing and services to people in need throughout the South Hills. The organization will hold three back-to-school supply events for families in Baldwin-Whitehall, Bethel Park, Keystone Oaks, Mt. Lebanon, South Park and Upper St. Clair school districts this month. There is no registration necessary. The dates are:

  • Aug. 10: 1-4 p.m. at Pleasant Hills Presbyterian Church, 199 Old Clairton Rd., Pittsburgh, PA 15236.
  • Aug. 13: 1-4 p.m. at Whitehall Presbyterian Church, 4935 E Willock Rd, Pittsburgh, PA 15227.
  • Aug. 14: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at SHIM, 5301 Park Ave., Bethel Park PA 15102.

6. Homeless Children’s Education Fund

The Homeless Children’s Education Fund was established in 1999 to tend to the needs of homeless kids in Allegheny County. Every year since 2006, staff members and volunteers collect and fill new backpacks with age-appropriate school supplies, which will be delivered to homeless housing provider agencies and community organizations. Last year, 2,059 backpacks were given out. Contact HCEF’s Marketing & Program Assistant for donation drop-off details.

7. Glade Run Lutheran Services

Since its founding in 1854, Glade Run Lutheran Services has evolved to meet the challenging mental health and educational needs of families. The organization is currently collecting backpacks and school supplies for its annual Back-to-School Drive. In addition to standard school supplies, Glade Run requests personal items like toothbrushes, body wash and deodorant. No contact dropoff is available weekdays from 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

8. Salvation Army Pittsburgh

The Salvation Army Back to School Bash, planned for Aug. 15 from 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m. , is open for all kids entering grades K-12. Giveaways include backpacks, school supplies, haircuts, snacks, gently worn clothing and shoes. Registration is required at 412-207-2127 and kids must be present at the event. The party takes place at the Salvation Army Pittsburgh Temple, 1060 McNeilly Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15226.

9. Narrow Way International Ministries

Narrow Way International Ministries is throwing its annual Back-to-School Bash on Sunday, Aug. 30, at 615 Taft Ave. in Pittsburgh. To help them bid farewell to summer, children will get a meal and school supplies.

10. Foster Love Project

Foster Love Project hosted their Back 2 School event on Aug. 1 with a virtual celebration that included magic, music, storytime and giveaways. Following the virtual fun, the organization held a drive-through pickup line where 150 kids impacted by foster care and adoption received brand new tennis shoes, hoodies and backpacks to help prepare for the new school year.