Where to Donate School Supplies and Money to Help Students in Need Around Chicago and the Suburbs

With the new school year right around the corner, it’s never been more important to give back to students and schools. There are several ways to donate, volunteer, or pass along extra supplies to help kids get ready and back to school around Chicago and the North Shore. Here are a few impactful organizations to connect with if you’re looking to donate school supplies for the school year.

Back 2 School America 

Courtesy of Back 2 School America

Since 2007, Back 2 School America has continued to expand, reaching more and more children from low-income families. Since then, they have given more than 7 million free school supply kits to students all around the Chicagoland area. They distribute these supplies in the form of their own “Back 2 School” kits, each containing approximately 30 grade-appropriate school supplies. The program operates year-round and requires thousands of volunteers. Learn more about how to donate and volunteer.

Cradles to Crayons

Cradles to Crayons collects new and nearly new children’s items through grassroots community drives and corporate donations. Cradles to Crayons wants every child to have the essentials they need to feel safe, warm, ready to learn, and important. Recently, Cradles to Crayons held their Backpack-a-Thon event, attended by Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and 500+ volunteers, who helped pack backpacks to be distributed this August to more than 70,000 Chicagoland students. Learn more about volunteering or donating funds or supplies.


The WasteShed provides Chicago and locations along the North Shore with an organized, affordable, and reliable resource for repurposed art, craft, and school materials. The main goal for WasteShed is to serve Chicago’s creative and educational community who share a passion for art and reuse, and to give back to the students all at the same time. They offer plenty of volunteer and donation opportunities on their website.

The Fashion Outlets of Chicago

The Fashion Outlets of Chicago, located in Rosemont Illinois, are once again providing students and teachers with a variety of exclusive offers and savings for the annual Back-to-School Celebration from August 1st to September 5th. Through a partnership with Fill A Heart 4 Kids, a local charitable organization that assists children in foster care and at-risk homeless youth throughout the Chicagoland area, Fashion Outlets are hosting a drive for new backpacks, gym shoes, t-shirts and sweatshirts. Donate some of these items and you will receive a $10 gift card from Abercrombie Kids, Forever 21, Lovisa, POLO Ralph Lauren Factory Store or Vineyard Vines.  

The Re-Write It Project

The Re-Write It Project aims to reduce educational inequities by combating systemic influences that impede student access to essential supplies. Their mission is to rewrite the narrative surrounding worn supplies. They refurbish used materials into quality kits to distribute all over the Chicagoland area. With centers and drop-off boxes all around Chicago, they then collect, sort the supplies, and then distribute. You can get involved by applying to be a volunteer on their website and or donating to the Re-Write It Project to help their project grow. 

Open Books

Chicago Public Schools are almost 90% children of color, yet less than 15% of childrens’ books published in the past 20 years contain multicultural characters or story lines. Open Books allows you to donate and buy books to give back to students around Chicago and has created the Gift of Books campaign that allows them to purchase new books that help overcome this disparity. All proceeds benefit their Book Access program to get even more books into kids’ hands. You can also help Open Books with their literacy programs to create more reading opportunities for children by donating.

Operation Backpack

Courtesy of Operation Backpack

VOA Illinois hosts their annual drive to collect backpacks and school supplies for the kids, including children in foster care or children in families experiencing homelessness. Their goal is to provide each child they serve with a brand new backpack and supllies to start their school year off on a positive foot. You can visit their store online to provide a brighter future for students and donate on their website.

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Lucy Shapiro headshot

Lucy Shapiro is Better’s editorial intern for the summer of 2022, currently a rising senior at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign studying Journalism with a minor in Political Science.

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