NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- We all know back-to-school shopping can be stressful.
So to make the transition back to class a little easier and to alleviate some of the burden on parents, a local community service organization started collecting school supplies and donations months ago.
On Thursday, its efforts came together in a huge way, CBS2's Nina Kapur reported.
Nearly 100 volunteers from companies and organizations across the city came together to pack up 20,000 backpacks with grade-specific school supplies. Those backpacks will go towards children living in shelters and experiencing homelessness throughout the five boroughs.
It is all being done through Volunteers of America-Greater New York's "Operation Backpack."
"These kids never get anything new, and so to open up and explore their backpack is absolutely thrilling to them," said Rachel Weinstein of Volunteers of America.
Operation Backpack is now in its 16th year and has provided more than 180,000 backpacks to students experiencing homelessness. Last year alone the initiative fulfilled every request it received and provided 20,000 backpacks to students in pre-K through 12th grade.
"Education is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty, so if you can get these kids to go to school, like school, want to be in school, have the tools they need to be in school and to succeed, you are giving them so much more than just that school year," Operation Backpack's Paige Davis said.
Volunteers said they're giving kids the key to success.
"When you see a child get their backpack it's priceless. I mean, it brings a tear to the eye," Weinstein said.
Kapur witnessed a warehouse filled with mountains of backpacks, again more than 20,000, plus tables piled high with hundreds of thousands of school supplies, including pens and pencils, composition books and spiral notebooks. The items were either donated or paid for with donations, and the volunteers came from everywhere. From NYPD transit officers to Broadway performers, there was no shortage of star power contributing.
"The fans of the show have been coming and dropping off school supplies and backpacks and colored pencils and markers and index cards for the last week and half or so," said Erika Henningsen, who stars in "Mean Girls" on Broadway.
Operation Backpack relies on solely donations, so every little bit helps.
Of course, the ultimate goal is to set children up for a successful school year.
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