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

Photo above courtesy of The Education Partnership.

Kids who have the proper learning tools are better able to participate in class and can achieve more academically, say teachers involved with The Education Partnership. Those kids are more likely to complete homework assignments, too. In part, that success comes from the sense of confidence and positive self-esteem that develops when kids are prepared and ready to excel. But rising prices can make it even more difficult for parents to provide kids with their back-to-school needs.

This year, school supplies – from backpacks to glue sticks and notebooks – are priced, on average, 15% higher than last year, according to DataWeave, a retail and pricing analytics firm. Backpack prices are up nearly 12% to an average of $70. Lunch boxes have risen 14% to more than $25. Even things like Sharpies and Elmer’s Glue have risen in cost nearly 55% and 30% respectively since 2022.

A number of Pittsburgh organizations work toward helping 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 great project for the whole family.

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

Photo courtesy of The Education Partnership.

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 191 schools, including more than 10,000 teachers and 69,000 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.

2. Salvation Army Pittsburgh

The Salvation Army’s annual Back-to-School Bash, presented by First National Bank, is scheduled from 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 5, 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. Haircuts will be available for kids, too. Registration is required in advance by calling 412-207-2127. To make a donation or volunteer, visit the Salvation Army website.

Image courtesy of Orchard Hills Church.

3. Orchard Hills Elios Back-To-School Drive

Orchard Hill Church is partnering with local ministries to support families in need with backpacks and school supplies.

  • The Wexford location, partnering with North Hills Community Outreach, requests donations delivered to the Wexford Lobby from Aug. 5-13.
  • The Strip District church, partnering with AfricaBookBagz, requests donations to be dropped off during Sunday services on Aug. 6 and 13.
  • The Butler location, partnering with Broad Street Elementary School, asks for donations at Sunday services on Aug. 6 and 13. Items can be also purchased through the Amazon Wish list to be sent directly to Broad Street Elementary School.
  • Southpointe has partnered with North Hills Community Outreach, requesting donations before Sunday services on Aug. 6 and 13.

    Photo courtesy of North Hills Community Outreach.

4. 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 has spent the summer collecting and distributing new backpacks, notebooks, colored pencils, scissors, pencil boxes and other school supplies through Aug. 6. 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 ordered via Amazon Wish List and shipped directly. Or drop off donations on Saturday, Aug. 5, from 9 a.m.-noon at the main office, 1975 Ferguson Road in Allison Park. They can also be delivered to any of the three offices from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays:

  • Greenstone United Methodist Church 939 California Ave., Avalon
  • Millvale Community Center, 416 Lincoln Ave., Millvale
  • North Hills Community Outreach 1975 Ferguson Road, McCandless

Distribution, by appointment, will take place:

5. Bazzy & Bubba’s Backpack Brigade

Richard Bazzy and the Bubba Show from 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. 11. 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. Food trucks and activities will be available throughout the day.

Photo courtesy of the Coraopolis Back 2 School Bash.

6. Coraopolis Back 2 School Bash

Families are invited to enjoy a free day of activities including carnival-style games, fun foods, live entertainment, community information and resources. And the kids will leave with a backpack full of school supplies. The 19th annual Back 2 School Bash takes place from noon-3 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 12, at Bliwas Field, 1009 1st St., Coraopolis. Volunteers are welcomed as well as donations.

7. Source Church Pittsburgh Festival and Backpack Giveaway

The annual Back-to-School Festival and Backpack Giveaway will take place from 2-4 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 13, at Source Church Pittsburgh. School supplies and 300 new backpacks and school supplies will be provided to kids. The community festival includes games, crafts, food and a bounce house for more family fun. Registration is required. Want to volunteer? Sign up here.

Image courtesy of Glade Run Lutheran Services.

8. 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 products 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 from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 14.

Image courtesy of South Hills Interfaith Movement.

9. South Hills Interfaith Movement

The caring 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.-1 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 15, at SHIM Bethel Park, 5301 Park Ave., Bethel Park
  • 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 17, at SHIM Family Center, 41 Macek Drive, South Hills
  • 1-4 p.m. Friday, Aug.  18, at SHIM Bethel Park, 5301 Park Ave., Bethel Park.

    Image courtesy of Pittsburgh Public Schools.

10. Pittsburgh Public Schools

Thousands of Pittsburgh Public Schools families will head to the North Shore from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Aug. 21 for the 11th-annual #PittsburghForPPS, presented by PNC. The 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 and food. No registration is required.

11. WPXI 11 Pack the Bus event

WPXI 11 Cares and Staples are partnering with The Education Partnership again this year to host the 2023 Pack the Bus event. It’s happening on Saturday, Aug. 26 from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. That day, you can drop your donations at five local Staples locations: North Hills Village Mall; Waterworks Mall, 6521 Steubenville Pike in Robinson, 2515 Banksville Road, Waterworks Mall 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. Volunteers are needed too. Sign up at links on this page.

back to school
Photo courtesy of National Council of Jewish Women Pittsburgh.

12. 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 22 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 can help kids in grades K-5 begin the school year on a positive note. Those interested in volunteering can sign up here.

13. 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. Want to help? Contact the HCEF via email at info@homelessfund.org for donation drop-off details.

pittsburgh nonprofits
Photo courtesy of Foster Love Project.

14. Foster Love Project

Foster Love Project supports foster kids and their caregivers. One of the organization’s programs is its annual Back2School distribution. Foster kids will receive new brand-name sneakers, sweatshirts and backpacks stuffed with goodies. Foster Love continues its work year-round and is glad to accept donations at any time.

15. YBMKQ’s Youth Community Day and School Supply Giveaway

Young Black Motivated Kings and Queens (YBMKQ) will host a Youth Community Day and back-to-school supply drive at Penn Hills Senior High School (309 Collins Drive, Penn Hills) on Saturday, Aug. 19 from noon to 3 p.m. They plan to distribute school supplies to more than 500 students and offer activities including free haircuts, manicures, treats from the Happy Day Dessert Factory ice cream truck, bounce houses, a community kickball game, and community resources.