15 ways to donate (or receive) essential back-to-school supplies in Pittsburgh

This story has been updated for the 2022 school year. Photo above courtesy of The Education Partnership. 

We know that kids need school supplies in order to learn. According to teachers involved with The Education Partnership, kids who have the proper learning tools participate more in class and achieve more academically. They’re also more likely to complete homework assignments.

In part, that success comes from the sense of confidence and positive self-esteem that develops when kids are prepared and ready to excel.

A number of Pittsburgh organizations work toward helping local learners by delivering back-to-school goods to kids who need them. More fortunate families can help the cause by shopping and donating supplies. You can get your own kids involved: Shopping for others is a terrific way for kids to develop empathy and a generous spirit. It’s a fun, feel-good project for the whole family.

All the organizations mentioned here can use help through Amazon Wish Lists and they offer volunteer opportunities, as well.

1. The Education Partnership

It’s all about the basics at The Education Partnership, which provides essential classroom items for kids and teachers in low-income districts throughout the seven-county region of Southwestern Pennsylvania. The organization’s impact supports 157 schools, including more than 8,000 teachers and 57,000 kids.

A $25 donation will provide a student with supplies for the entire school year. Or you can collect or buy and donate school supply items at any time during the year. You’re welcome to drop off donations from 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Mondays-Fridays and 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays at The Education Partnership, 281 Corliss St., Pittsburgh, PA 15220.

Individuals can donate 100% virtually through Amazon Wish List. And The Education Partnership is glad to have volunteers help at their headquarters. Teens who are looking to log volunteer hours can arrange to help out on Saturdays during the school year. See below for upcoming events to help support the Partnership’s mission.

2. Bazzy & Bubba’s Backpack Brigade

Richard Bazzy and the Bubba Show at 100.7-FM Star radio will team up with the Education Partnership again this year to host Bazzy & Bubba’s Backpack Brigade from 6 a.m.-5 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 12. Have your kids help collect school supplies to fill new or gently used backpacks to be dropped off at Shults Ford in Wexford. Star 100.7 will be onsite broadcasting live, and food trucks and activities will be available throughout the day

3. WPXI 11 Pack the Bus event

WPXI 11 Cares and Staples are also partnering with The Education Partnership again this year to host the 2022 Pack the Bus event. It’s happening on Saturday, Aug. 27 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. That day, you can drop your donations at five local Staples locations: 4801 McKnight Rd. (North Hills Village Mall), 6521 Steubenville Pike, 2515 Banksville Road, 999 Freeport Road (Waterworks) and 6375 Penn Ave in East Liberty. Your help is needed to donate new and gently used school supplies that will be passed on to kids who need them. Among the most requested items: pencils, notebooks, filler paper, scissors, 8-packs of markers and 24-packs of crayons.

Image courtesy of South Hills Interfaith Movement.

4. South Hills Interfaith Movement

The generous folks at South Hills Interfaith Movement are preparing to help 1,000 kids with back-to-school gear. The organization has been providing food, clothing and services to people in need throughout the South Hills for more than 50 years. The organization has been collecting school supplies all summer long and will hold three back-to-school supply giveaways 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 walk-up distribution dates are:

10 a.m.-2 p.m. Aug. 16: SHIM Family Center, 41 Macek Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15227.

10 a.m.-1 p.m. Aug. 18: SHIM Bethel Park, 5301 Park Ave., Bethel Park.

1-4 p.m. Aug. 19: SHIM Bethel Park, 5301 Park Ave., Bethel Park.

5. Pittsburgh Public Schools

Thousands of Pittsburgh Public Schools families will head to the North Shore from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Aug. 22 for the 10th-annual #PittsburghForPPS, presented by PNC. The drive-up, back-to-school distribution will help equip kids to jump into the school year with all the resources they need for success. Families will receive book bags stuffed with supplies, hand sanitizer, masks and food. No registration is required.

Photo by Pixabay.

6. Salvation Army Pittsburgh

The Salvation Army’s annual Back-to-School Bash is scheduled from 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Aug. 6 at the Salvation Army Pittsburgh Temple Worship and Service Center on McNeilly Road. Expect a bouncy house, food and celebration. Kids in grades K-12 will receive backpacks, assorted school supplies, plus gently used clothing and shoes. Register online or by calling 412-207-2127.

Photo courtesy of National Council of Jewish Women Pittsburgh.

7. National Council of Jewish Women Pittsburgh

The National Council of Jewish Women Pittsburgh has been advocating for families for over 125 years. The council partners with about 19 community agencies to identify kids with needs. Its Kids Community Closets (formerly the Back2School Store) help with clothing throughout the year, as the seasons and family circumstances change. The effort helps underserved kids start school on an equal footing with their peers by “shopping” for new supplies and clothing at no cost. The experience allows kids in grades K-5 to begin the school year on a positive note.

Photo courtesy of North Hills Community Outreach.

8. North Hills Community Outreach

North Hills Community Outreach helps families in the northern suburbs work through tough times, which includes the back-to-school crunch. The organization is collecting and distributing new backpacks, notebooks, colored pencils, scissors, pencil boxes and other school supplies. Next up is the Kid’s Coat Shop, running Sept. 1-Oct. 17. The organization will be collecting and handing out new winter coats, hats, scarves and gloves for kids from infants to 18-year-olds. Donations can be dropped off at any of the three offices or ordered via Amazon Wish List and shipped directly.

Send an email to vdburst@nhco.org or call 412-487-6316, Ext. 3143, to arrange a pickup at one of these school supplies distribution locations:

3-6 p.m. Aug. 8: Greenstone United Methodist Church 939 California Ave., Avalon.

1-3 p.m. Aug. 11: 416 Lincoln Ave., Millvale.

3-6 p.m. Aug. 16: North Hills Community Outreach 1975 Ferguson Road, McCandless.

Photo courtesy of the Homeless Children’s Education Fund.

9. Homeless Children’s Education Fund

Staff members and volunteers at the Homeless Children’s Education Fund collect and fill new backpacks with age-appropriate school supplies. They travel by school bus to deliver the goods to kids through partner organizations and agencies that focus on homeless housing. In 2021, the organization gave away 1,870 backpacks to kids in need. Want to help? Contact the HCEF via email at info@homelessfund.org for donation drop-off details.

Image courtesy of Glade Run Lutheran Services.

10. Glade Run Lutheran Services

Glade Run Lutheran Services requests help to collect backpacks and other supplies for its annual Back-to-School Drive. Since its founding in 1854, Glade Run has evolved its mission to meet the challenging mental health and educational needs of families. In addition to standard items like notebooks, markers and pencil cases, the organization is asking for personal hygiene items like toothbrushes, deodorant and body wash. To find the suggested list of items that struggling families need most, click here. Donations can be dropped off between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Aug. 15.

Image courtesy of Foster Lover Project.

11. Foster Love Project

Foster Love Project, which supports foster kids and their caregivers, will host their annual Back2School distribution on Aug. 14. Two hundred kids will receive new brand-name tennis shoes, sweatshirts and backpacks stuffed with goodies. Registration is closed, but keep in mind that Foster Love continues its work year-round and is glad to accept donations any time.

12. New Culture Church Block Party

You are invited to the Back-to-School Block Party hosted by the New Culture Church. Volunteers will be handing out free school supplies and backpacks. The party is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. Aug. 27 in the church community center at 725 Lorenz Ave. in the West End.

13. Source Church Pittsburgh Festival and Backpack Giveaway

The annual Back-to-School Festival and Backpack Giveaway will take place from 2-4 p.m. Aug. 14 at Source Church Pittsburgh. School supplies and 300 new backpacks will be provided to kids. The festival includes games, crafts, food and a bounce house for more family fun. Registration is required.

14. Manchester Day

The annual Manchester Day, in collaboration with Live and Learn Back-to-School Drive, offers a free day of play. Join the community from noon-6 p.m. on Aug. 20 at Manchester Field. Expect food, activities, vendors and raffles. School supplies and backpacks will be given out, too.

15. Child & Family Counseling Center Back-to-School event

Kids from K-12 will be prepared with confidence through the Back-to-School Wellness Event hosted by the Child & Family Counseling Center and presented by Pittsburgh Action Against Rape. Along with wellness activities, families will enjoy music, giveaways, raffles and treats. The free event takes place from 1-4 p.m. Aug. 21 at The Circuit Center, 5 Hot Metal St., Southside Works.