NEW HYDE PARK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Front line workers on Long Island are helping people impacted by COVID in a different way.
They're packing up thousands of backpacks for students in need to help them succeed this upcoming school year.
What may look like garbage bags full of trash is actually treasure. In each is backpacks filled with school supplies for kids in need.
"Three thousand backpacks will be packed and sent out to school districts all across the communities," said Teri Manno, vice president of regional ambulatory operations for Northwell Health.
From pens and pencils to notebooks and folders, health care workers are assembling these backpacks with care.
"COVID's certainly on our minds and remains on our minds, but I think it's great to give back in a way that isn't dealing specifically with COVID," said Dr. Adam Auerbach, regional ambulatory physician executive for Northwell Health.
Manno is behind the operation at the New Hyde Park warehouse.
"There's so many of our patients in our communities that are facing food insecurities, financial insecurities," she told CBS2's Jenna DeAngelis. "It's going to be a huge relief to these parents that they're going to be able to give and start the school year off right."
She says this all started with a conversation at a vaccination pod with volunteer Debbie Shalom, a retired principal from Manhasset.
"As an ex-school principal who was the recipient of these backpacks for some of my students, I'm so happy to give back on the other side," she said.
Northwell employees raised $64,000 for about 1.5 tons of supplies, partnering with non-profit Supplies for Success to make this happen.
"The need this year, thanks to the pandemic, is staggering," said Mindy Richenstein, founder of Supplies for Success.
Richenstein says supply shortages are also an issue this school year.
"As well as pricing caused by the supply chain shortages, but we fundraised all year long and Supplies for Success reserved the 25,000 backpacks and all the supplies we need for this year's kids," she said.
The goal is to help kids in need succeed -- with thanks to front line workers, once again, stepping up for the community.
"It's just always incredible to see how people step up, in every step of the way," Auerbach said.
While this is the first year for the event, it won't be the last. We're told the partnership with Northwell Health and Supplies for Success will continue for years to come.
Organizers say majority of the backpacks assembled from this specific event will go to communities that are in the strongest need, including Freeport, Brentwood, Hempstead and Bayshore.
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