Impactful Back to School Project Ideas for Rotarians


From schools to shelters, many organizations are struggling with the need to provide back to school necessities for children in need. There are many programs centered around supplying pencils, notebooks and backpacks. However, there are also items and services, just as important, that tend to get overlooked.

This year, Rotarians are embracing the goal to “Be the Inspiration.”  To honor this, we have put together alternative Rotary project ideas that provide both children and educators support that goes beyond the typical backpack. These Inspiring, impactful back to school project ideas for Rotarians have proven to continue to be significant long after their initial events or programs.

Warming Hearts and Minds Library Project

impactful back to school project ideas for RotariansIn fall of 2017, the Chicago Public Library, the Rotary Club of Winnetka-Northfield and other partners came together to pilot a new program, “Warming Hearts and Minds.” The goal of this joint effort was to provide the opportunity for increased academic performance for students and increased literacy for the community.

They succeeded.

“We put on hundreds of special events each year for the children of Chicago. The Operation Warm coat gifting events were, by far, the highlight of our year,” said Liz Mc Chesney, Director of Children’s Services for the Chicago Public Library (CPL).  “Seeing the happiness of these children, who have so little, warms our hearts. Even better, these events attracted families who had never been inside their neighborhood library.”

At the Chicago Lawn pilot program in November 2018, CPL reports issuing 116 new library cards. Six months later, 78% of these cards are in active use, demonstrating the program accomplished its objective.

“We find that if we can get a child into their neighborhood library, they are very likely to return. And the more time a child spends with library programs, our research shows that their academic performance improves,” said Ms. Mc Chesney. “This is a proven program to do just that!”

This program is available to Rotary Clubs throughout the US. Learn How to Warm Hearts and Minds

Back to School Shopping Spree

Rotary clubs across the country are finding back to school shopping spree projects to be a great way to inspire while providing a tangible need. From the Rotary Club of Bakersfield North to the Rotary Club of Alderwood-Terrace, this project can have lasting impact on a child’s self-esteem. Children all seem to worry about what to wear on the first day of school. First impressions matter and self-esteem affects wellbeing. Being able to attend in a new fashionable outfit may boost the self-confidence of the child and lead to greater success.

These individually run back to school projects have a lot of flexibility. Some clubs choose to pair a Rotarian with a child in need and a store gift card, making it a joint shopping experience. Other clubs choose to donate gift cards directly to the families.

Local children’s clothing stores may be willing to give a percentage discount exclusively for the children being served.

Interested in starting an Operation Warm community service project with your club?

Learn More

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