Backpack Coalition
Skip to Content
United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County

two girls with backpacks in front of a school bus

Backpack Coalition

Main Content

Backpack Coalition, which has been led by United Way since 2014, is committed to providing backpacks and school supplies to students with financial constraints, helping ensure they succeed in school. Each year the coalition distributes thousands of backpacks with grade appropriate school supplies to students in grades K-12. 

Thank you to our community for their past support of the Backpack Coalition. In 2021, we distributed over 5,000 brand new backpacks filled with school supplies to children across our community, from students in Milwaukee Community Schools to those living and learning in Waukesha County.

Here are just a few of the ways each donation altogether made a difference:

  • We ensured a child started the school year with the supplies they needed to succeed. With the right school supplies, a child's capacity to learn can be greatly enhanced.
  • We helped a child feel proud to have their own school supplies. The average cost of school supplies hovers around $75 and not every family can afford this cost.
  • We reduced the amount of money teachers spend from their own pockets to provide school supplies for their students.
  • We helped families redirect their limited budgets to other important needs: rent, food, bills, school clothes, and more.

As the 2022-23 school year approaches, we are proud to once again ensure thousands of local students start the year off right. We hope you'll join us again this year in supporting the Backpack Coalition.



Backpack Volunteers Needed

Volunteers are needed to set up and prepare assembly lines (i.e. organize and sort supplies from community drives, move product, break-down boxes, etc.) and to help pack backpacks filled with age-appropriate school supplies. 
All volunteers are required to show proof of up-to-date vaccination status (which includes applicable boosters).

Milwaukee Shifts

United Way Volunteer Center, 200 W Pleasant St, Milwaukee, WI 53212

Packing efforts in Milwaukee have been completed! Please consider volunteering in Waukesha.






2022 Goal: 7,000 Filled Backpacks

 vector drawing of school bus colored in 50 percent

Donate by clicking the button below!




Or to donate via check, mail to:

United Way Pledge Processing
PO Box 88988
Milwaukee, WI 53288-8988

Payable to: United Way Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County
NOTE: Please add to your check memo line, "Backpack Coalition Restricted Fund"


Run a Backpack Supply Collection Drive

Hosting a supply drive is fun, plus we help make it easy.

Get Started Here!

Download the Backpack Coalition Drive Toolkit that includes a flyer, progress sheet, and more.

Contact Lori Hayes at 414.837.3639 or email to learn more about running a backpack supply collection drive.



Individual Donations of Supplies

Join our efforts and deliver new school supplies to any of the following community sites:

United Way Sites (Mon-Thu 9:00pm-3:00pm, Fri 9:00am-12:00pm)
Milwaukee Office: 225 West Vine Street
Waukesha Office: 2717 N Grandview Blvd, Suite 102

Special Event - Fill the Bus - Saturday, July 16, 2022 (9:00am - 3:00pm)
Walmart Supercenter - Waukesha: 2000 S West Ave
Walmart Supercenter - New Berlin: 15205 W Greenfield Ave

Need a Backpack?

The Backpack Coalition provides school supplies for students in:


  • Milwaukee County for students attending one of our Milwaukee Community Partnership Schools, please contact your guidance counselor at your respective school.
  • Waukesha County for students attending Hadfield, Hawthorne and Heyer Elementary schools, please contact your guidance counselor at your respective school.  Families who utilize the following agencies may also apply for assistance by signing up for supplies from April 15 – June 15, 2022: Waukesha County Health and Human Services, Food Panty of Waukesha County, Mukwonago Food Pantry, Muskego Food Pantry, Oconomowoc Food Pantry, Pewaukee Food Pantry, & Waukesha Salvation Army. 
  • For students in the Germantown School District, please contact Sara Wong, School Social Worker at 262.502.7325 or at

For all other requests, please contact the free IMPACT 211 service (1.866.211.3380).

Thank You to our 2021 Partners

These organiziations supported Backpack Coalition with either a $500+ in-kind or financial donation.

Best Buy Superstore 757
Briohn Building Corp
CH Coakley
Circa InfoSoft Group

Costco – Pewaukee
Erie Insurance
Extension, Inc.
First United Methodist Church
HSA Bank

Humana, Inc.
Johnson Controls
Landmark Credit Union
Markel American Insurance Co.

Waukesha State Bank
We Energies
Zimmerman Architectural Studios, Inc.
Zurn Industries  

Impact History

Numbers indicate how many students were served through Backpack Coalition annually.

Coalition Members

Aurora Health Care, Child & Family Centers of Excellence, Food Pantry of Waukesha County, Germantown School District, Girl Scouts of Wisconsin Southeast, Milwaukee Area Labor Council AFL-CIO, Mukwonago Area School District, Mukwonago Food Pantry, Muskego Food Pantry, Oconomowoc Food Pantry, Pewaukee Food Pantry, School District of Waukesha, The Waukesha Salvation Army, United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County, Waukesha County Health and Human Services, Waukesha County UW-Extension


Contact Lori Hayes at 414.837.3639 or email.