Event equips students with backpacks, supplies ahead of uncertain school year

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BEDFORD-STUYVESANT, Brooklyn (WABC) -- An organization created during the coronavirus pandemic held a backpack and school supply giveaway in Brooklyn Sunday.

It's not where Nicole Whitner and her family would normally go for school supplies.

"I'm just trying to skate by, I'm just skating by right now," Whitner said.

But right now many things are off track and the organizers of the event in Bedford-Stuyvesant hope the giveaway fixes some of that uncertainty.

Nicole's business took a huge hit because of COVID-19 and now she's unemployed and looking for a job.

"I can't get her a backpack, I can't get the school supplies she needs, so I came over here. It can help those who are really, really needful with school supplies," Whitner said.

Her 10-year-old daughter and other kids lined up and walked away with free school supplies.

In June, Monique Harte and two other friends started The Backpack Project NYC.

Through donations, the team was able to give away roughly 1,200 backpacks, packed full of things students will need in a few weeks.

"I'd rather you worry about food and more important things, so we wanted to ease the load on parents," Harte said. "Even if the kids are back in the classroom or at home, they still need supplies."

On Friday, the group gave away free supplies in Queens.

The kids were so excited, they jumped in and held class right in the park.

"This was two months, 60 days of hard work," Harte said.

Mayor de Blasio recently unveiled the city's back to school pledge, which includes stocking buildings with PPE, cleaning supplies, a full-time nurse, and classrooms with insufficient ventilation will not be used.

But there's push back from the City Council, some parents and the teacher's union who want a delay.

"We would love to have him back in school, it's just we are more concerned about his personal safety and his friends and teachers' health as well," parent Conrad Odol said.

So his son, Conrad, Jr., will learn from home this year.

The United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew says if school opens September 10th and the union's list of criteria, which includes large scale COVID-19 testing, is not met, the union is prepared to go to court and or go on strike.

Whitner is also not sending her daughter to school.

"I think we're opening too fast. I don't think it's right now," Whitner said.

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