HomeStreet calls up Backpack Brigade

Madison Park bank hosting second annual fundraiser for nonprofit serving weekend food needs for local youth

HomeStreet calls up Backpack  Brigade

HomeStreet calls up Backpack Brigade

Backpack Brigade founder Nichelle Hilton knows how to stretch a budget, her nonprofit providing children at 24 Seattle schools with more than 230,000 meals annually.

HomeStreet Bank in Madison Park is hosting its second annual fundraiser to support Backpack Brigade 4-6 p.m. Thursday, May 16. The night will include socializing over wine and hors d’oeuvres, guest speakers, a raffle drawing and plenty of opportunities to learn more about Backpack Brigade.

“It’d be nice to do a whole year [of funding], which is $200,000,” Hilton said. “We raised $10,000 last year.”

Hilton connected with the business shortly after HomeStreet Bank’s opening in the neighborhood, the business wanting to get involved in the United Way’s Day of Caring.

“I don’t think we could have grown this far without them,” Hilton said.

The nonprofit provides students with weekend bags that come with food for three dinners, two breakfasts, two lunches and two snacks. Each bag only costs around $5, said Hilton, who started Backpack Brigade in 2014. She registered it as a 501(c)3 a year later.

She began seeing the greater need for weekend food support while serving just one school through the Central Area Food Bank as divisional resource officer at the YWCA.

Backpack Brigade now provides food bags for 872 students at 24 Seattle every week. Bailey-Gatzert has the highest need, and wants to double its student participation, Hilton said. The school with the second-highest level of participation is Leschi Elementary.

There are 98 schools in the Seattle School District, and 20,000 students qualify for free or reduced lunches. Around 3,000 were classified as homeless last year.

Each Friday around 30 volunteers help pack the bags, and 17 handle the deliveries, Hilton said. As the name suggests, the nonprofit used to provide backpacks, but those often didn’t get returned. Bert’s Red Apple in Madison Park helps Backpack Brigade acquire thick plastic bags that students can then store in their own backpacks, Hilton said.

Backpack Brigade used to operate out of the neighborhood, but outgrew the space, Hilton said. The nonprofit now works out of a 3,000-square-foot warehouse near Uwajimaya in Chinatown/International District.

During the second annual Backpack Brigade fundraiser at HomeStreet Bank people will have an opportunity to learn about the program, homelessness trends and how hunger affects student performance.

“We have excellent speakers coming,” Hilton said. “We have speakers from the district and the schools and volunteers.”

Even if people don’t plan on getting involved in the fundraiser that night, Hilton said she invites anyone to come out and learn what Backpack Brigade is all about. Find out more now at