In an affluent summer colonies like the Hamptons, issues of economic misfortune and inequality are often overlooked, lacking the recognition and action they deserve. Supplies for Success, a Sagaponack-based nonprofit, is hard at work making sure the East End’s impoverished youth don’t fall through the cracks.
“Poverty on Long Island is quite hidden, with people—families—living in cars,” Supplies for Success founder Mindy Richenstein says. “We believe our large community event in the Hamptons, that engages people of all ages—from 2 to 88—shines a light on poverty in our midst. Our volunteers actively spread the word of what we do and why. We have 20 schools and organizations that will receive our backpacks.”
Supplies for Success will hold a backpack assembly event on Thursday, August 22 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Bridgehampton Community House (2368 Montauk Highway, Bridgehampton). This is the seventh backpack assembly event that Supplies for Success has held in the Hamptons, and volunteers are once again invited to help set up on August 21 and/or help fill backpacks with stationary items on August 22. The backpacks assembled will be sent to various community partners, which include school districts, food pantries, homeless and domestic violence shelters and religious organizations.
Since 2002, Supplies for Success has worked to ensure that access to school supplies is never an inhibiting factor in a child’s success in school. The organization’s website explains, “Parents and caregivers experience considerable stress at the prospect of equipping their kids with backpacks and school supplies, which can cost upwards of $70. For families in need, school supplies are a luxury, and may mean a family’s choice between paying the electric bill, and spending on their child’s classroom necessities. No one should have to make that choice.”
Supplies for Success member Shari Adler was inspired to join by her children’s eagerness to go back-to-school shopping. “My own two children are now young adults in their twenties,” she says. “One of my fondest memories of their youth was every August when all three of us went to a store to purchase all that they needed for school supplies. I knew this annual ritual gave them the confidence and pride they needed to step into their respective classrooms on their first day of school. Now that they are grown, I feel so satisfied to know that every August, through Supplies for Success, I can participate, with wonderful like-minded women, to give other children that same confidence and pride that they need for that daunting, yet exciting, first day of school. The children are my inspiration!”
In the 17 years since its inception, Supplies for Success has distributed 80,000 backpacks to students. When asked what inspired her to start the organization, Rechenstein explains, “I believe every child deserves a shot at success. Although our beautiful country provides a free education to all, children living in poverty do not start on a level playing field. Eighteen years ago, I had the opportunity to start Supplies for Success with a giant philanthropic organization, UJA-Federation of New York. We helped 68 kids our first year and have grown so much since, thanks to fabulous volunteers like Shari and generous donors, that last year we provided more than 15,000 children with filled backpacks before the first day of school. We have expanded beyond New York so we launched as an independent 501(c)(3) in May 2019.”
The Supplies for Success website details a number of touching success stories made possible by their work. Anyone interested in the Hamptons backpack assembly event can register at give.classy.org/sfshamptons. Community service letters can be arranged for student volunteers, but spots are limited. For those who are unable to donate their time, a donation of $20 can equip one student for the school year; $500 can provide for an entire class; and $1,500 can sponsor an entire grade.
For more information on Supplies for Success, visit suppliesforsuccess.org.