'It means so much:' Virtual school supplies drive offers relief to MPS students, families

From laptops to portable desks, the back-to-school supply list looks different in 2020 as many students in southeastern Wisconsin prepare to learn remotely.

Jackie Ackley normally works on the assembly line at Beyond Vision. On Friday, Aug. 21, she spent her shift stuffing backpacks.

Being completely blind, Ackley said she knows how it feels to sometimes get a helping hand that's needed.

"If I can help somebody else, I am just paying back a little bit," Ackley said.

Jackie Ackley

Beyond Vision, BestEd Business and the MPS Foundation are just a few of the partners coming together for students this fall with the COVID-19 pandemic having hit families hard.

"I like to think it's the disadvantaged helping the disadvantaged, which makes everyone feel a little better," said Wendell Willis, executive director of the Milwaukee Public Schools Foundation. "We've got a number of families that for the first time, they are in this category of being homeless or being strapped."

No Empty Backpacks School Supplies Drive

The No Empty Backpacks School Supplies Drive is critical as kids return to school this fall. Just like classes for many students, the initiative has also adapted and is now virtual.

"We have different options for people in terms of what they would like to donate," Beth Bauer of BestEd Business said. "I hope everyone will support this program because it means so much not just to the kids but parents and families that are trying to work and get their kids through school." 

The packages are designed for families to learn online and from home. Because of the pandemic, there won't be any donation bins around the city. However, donations can be made online -- CLICK HERE -- and contributions will be accepted until Aug. 23.

With the support of community members and local businesses, the No Empty Backpacks School Supplies Drive collected more than 70,000 items last year. Donations will be distributed directly to eight MPS schools over the next few weeks.