Animated illustration of a teen sitting at a desk surrounded by school supplies

Illustrations by LeeAndra Cianci

Where to donate school supplies in Toronto and the GTA

These organizations help kids start the school year off on the right foot

From backpacks to electronics and so much more, equipping each kid for the school year carries a hefty price tag beyond the budget of many Toronto families. This is especially true for women fleeing domestic violence, who have neither the means nor the emotional space for gathering up back-to-school supplies. “Many women and children enter shelters with just the clothes on their back. Nothing else. This is traumatic enough,” says Marlene Rosen, office administrator for Na’amat Canada Toronto, a volunteer organization that supports women and children in both Canada and Israel. Every year their School Supplies for Kids project fills about 1,000 backpacks with items needed by grade, from kindergarten through to grade eight, and donates them to women’s shelters across the GTA. Rosen says not only is the new school year an extra challenging time for kids in transition, they often have the added stress of changing schools. “We like to help them out in time for back-to-school to make it as smooth a transition as possible,” she explains.

To help elementary and high-school students start off the school year with confidence, consider donating new school supplies to one of these GTA charities:

Illustration of a backpack, book and water bottle

NA’AMAT CANADA TORONTO

Where: 272 Codsell Ave., Toronto
How to donate: Rosen says they like to keep backpacks consistent to ensure every child at the shelter has the same thing. Call ahead to arrange donations of new, unused supplies such as pens, pencils, glue sticks, erasers, highlighters, pencil cases and folders. Drop-offs can be made Monday through Friday by calling 416-636-5425.
Who it helps: Children being cared for in local domestic violence shelters are provided with the items they need for the academic year, allowing shelters to focus on other needs for the family.

THE OPEN DOOR

Where: 100 City Centre Dr., Mississauga (Lower level of Square One Shopping Centre—enter through the Goodlife Fitness door.)
How to donate: New, unused school supplies are in high demand every fall at The Open Door. Staff says priority items for this year include crayons and sharpeners, water colour paints, vacuum-sealed containers for hot lunches (like Thermoses), water bottles, lunch bags and small packages of tissues. Call ahead for drop-off Monday through Friday. For large donations, someone can meet you upstairs with a shopping cart.
Who it helps: The Open Door provides families in crisis with food, clothing and counselling. Back-to-school supplies form a big part of how they support families in Mississauga and Peel Region.

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Illustration of a lunch bag, cup of pens, binder and a pencil case

FREE GEEK TORONTO

Where: 180 Sudbury St., Toronto
How to donate: Free Geek, an employment social enterprise supported by the the Toronto Enterprise Fund, is always accepting unwanted electronics of any kind. What they don’t need are outdated items such as typewriters, tube televisions and VHS tapes. Call ahead to 416-572-3737 to arrange drop-offs from Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and a staff member can meet you at your car. Or for a fee, they will come and collect donations right from your home. See their website for collection rates across the GTA.
Who it helps: The online Thrift Shop and downtown Toronto Computer Refurbishment Store is open to anyone, offering fully operational electronics well below market value. Computers and other items are also granted to charities and community organizations.

360 KIDS

Where: 80F Centurian Dr., Markham
How to donate: The 360 Kids After School Program for elementary schoolers is always in need of craft supplies (think paper bags, ribbon, googly eyes and glue), finger paints and markers along with pens, pencils and erasers. For other programs, 360 Kids (a United Way–supported organization) requests adult colouring books, pencil crayons, youth backpacks (not children’s) and art supplies such as small canvasses with art kits. Drop-offs accepted Monday through Friday. Call ahead to arrange a time.
Who it helps: At-risk youth receive counselling, help with housing and support through 350 Kids, and their wide-reaching After School Program provides younger kids from grades one to eight with a variety of after-school activities in participating schools across York Region.

TRUE NORTH AID

Where: First Nations communities, via the GTA
How to donate: Gather new school supplies from your neighbourhood and True North Aid will get them shipped to remote First Nations communities. Programs for 2019 include a backpack drive for Deer Lake First Nation and a general supply drive for Pikangikum First Nation. True North Aid’s national director Kenneth Smid says high-turnover items such as pens, pencils, paper and calculators are always in demand. Contact True North Aid through their website or at 226-444-3385 to be connected with GTA volunteers close to you.
Who it helps: True North Aid supports northern communities with humanitarian initiatives thanks to donations from the GTA and southern Ontario. This fall, a volunteer private plane is scheduled to reach Pikangikum First Nation, while Trucks for Change will bring supplies for Deer Lake First Nation on their route to Thunder Bay.

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