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Port Chester Student Helps Fill 500 Backpacks For Needy Students

Priya Tambe (center) with her sons Sam (left) and Neil (right). Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly
Priya Tambe's family lives in Rye. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly
Maria Barragan attends Westchester Community College. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly
Kohl's employees volunteer for Operation Backpack Wednesday. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly
Priya Tambe's (center) son Neil puts rulers into backpacks. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly

PORT CHESTER, N.Y. – Priya Tambe and her two sons dove head first into stuffing notebooks, pencils, rulers and other school supplies into backpacks for needy high school students at the fourth annual Operation Backpack in Port Chester Wednesday.

Tambe, of Rye, has volunteered before. But, Wednesday was the first time she did it with her sons, Neil, 13, and Sam, 10.

“I just wanted to do something fun with my kids that they could actually relate to,” she said. “I’m so happy it’s moving fast, too, because we actually feel like we’re helping.”

Harrison’s Steven Alvarez was one of five Kohl’s employees lending a hand for the company’s community service program. Kohl’s donates $500 to the charity if five of its employees volunteer. Alvarez, who was in charge of binders Wednesday, said it was easy to get people to volunteer for Operation Backpack, which is a partnership between The Sharing Shelf of Family Services of Westchester and Westchester County’s Department of Social Services (DDS).

His colleague and Port Chester resident Maria Barragan said she was happy to do it, as a frequent volunteer during high school. The Westchester Community College student has raised money for One World to provide nets to people in Africa to prevent malaria, collected donations for Thanksgiving drives and many more.

“I want to travel and help other people and maybe become a physician’s assistant and join Physician Assistants for Global Health (PAGH),” she said.

Hawthorne students Sara Bruni, Marianna Leon and Lidia Decuffa are members of Westchester Girl Scouts Heart of the Hudson and working toward their Silver Award. For their project, they chose to fund and fill backpacks for the Westchester County Mental Health Association. They learned how to do it with the help of Deborah Blatt, director of Sharing Shelf who runs Operation Backpack.

“So, they’re learning about it here and bringing it to another place,” Bruni’s mom, Holly, said. “They worked really hard.”

The girls will host their own backpack filling event Thursday with 54 bags they funded. They also donated 20 bags to Operation Backpack and helped out Wednesday.

Blatt said Sharing Shelf works with social services to distribute the backpacks, which went to 26 school districts in Westchester last year. They plan to distribute more than 600 backpacks this year.

Donations to Operation Backpack must be made by Sept. 5. Collection bins are at the following locations.

Government Offices

White Plains:

  • 148 Martine Ave.
  • 112 East Post Road
  • 85 Court St.

Mount Vernon

  • 100 East First St.


  • 750 Washington St.


  • 31 Warburton Ave.

Port Chester:

  • 47 Purdy Ave.


  • PM Pediatrics, 620 East Boston Post Road, Mamaroneck
  • Vision of Tomorrow, 132 Larchmont Avenue,Larchmont
  • The Voracious Reader, 1997 Palmer Avenue, Larchmont
  • State Farm, 282 White Plains Road, Eastchester

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