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Deals & Dealmakers

Real estate industry rallies for annual ‘Operation Backpack’

Real estate firms including RXR Realty, The Rockefeller Group and Cushman & Wakefield are teaming up with Volunteers of America Greater-New York to launch Operation Backpack 2015.

The annual drive will collect new backpacks filled with brand new, grade-specific school supplies for thousands of children living in New York City’s homeless and domestic violence shelters.

Operation Backpack kicked off on Monday (July 12) and will continue through Friday, August 7.

With family homelessness at an all-time high, the organization’s goal is to outfit 20,000 New York City children with backpacks in time for the first day of the school year.

Last year, with support from 150 companies and other community partners, VOA-GNY collected and distributed 18,400 backpacks to children in over 150 shelters.

The list of real estate industry supporters also includesAlexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc., Brookfield Properties and New York Commercial Real Estate Women (NYCREW).

For years RXR Realty has donated the “sort spaceˮ where backpacks and supplies are prepared for distribution.

VOA will be conducting this year’s staging at RXR’s 2.3 million square feet Starrett Lehigh Building.

“Simply put, without the support of RXR Realty, Operation Backpack could not respond to the growing need,” said Rachel Weinstein, VOA-GNY vice president.

“RXR provides not only the raw space — 11,000 s/f in a prime location — but all building services that are essential to ensuring the campaign runs efficiently.

“For instance scores of pallets of school supplies and FedEx trucks full of thousands of packed backpacks all need to be unloaded and brought to the floor for preparation. The building’s staff makes sure this all happens and more.”

William Elder, EVP & Managing Director, NYC for RXR Realty, said, “Helping Volunteers of America respond to the needs of homeless families, specifically homeless children, is something we are dedicated to supporting and one way we can give back to the New York City community.

“The cause is near and dear to the hearts of our staff and we look forward to the Operation Backpack effort every year.”

The average cost of a filled backpack is $81, an expense few families in homeless shelters can afford.

Receiving a filled backpack relieves parents of a financial burden and provides a sense of normalcy to the otherwise chaotic lives of their children. These backpacks give children the supplies they need to do their work, and allow them to go to school with more hope and confidence, looking and feeling more like their housed classmates and less like children in need.

The VOA is seeking new sponsors and partners in addition to all that have joined this year. Companies may conduct Operation Backpack drives that are co-ordinated by a single employee or an entire department.

If your company is interested in becoming a financial sponsor or in-kind partner, send a message to .

Each year, thousands of members of the general public also contribute to the campaign’s success.

This year, the public is urged to drop off a new backpack and/or school supplies at select Duane Reade and Walgreens stores in New York City through August 7.

Visit to print out a list of supplies for each grade. Financial donations can be made at

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