Out With The Old, In With The Old!

Graduation from college…

Moving out…

Everything has to fit in the car…

Who needs extra-long twin sheets anymore?

At colleges everywhere, dumpsters are filled with used but still usable items. Desk lamps, XL sheets, comforters, rugs, laundry bags, hampers, fans and blankets are thrown away.

This is where Grad Bag comes in. We collect, clean, package, store and re-distribute dorm room items to soon-to-be college students who might not have the means to buy these things on their own.

We founded Grad Bag in 2012.  

As we moved our kids out of their dorm rooms upon college graduation, we were amazed by the amount of goods that students were throwing into dumpsters.  We realized that a lot of items that students no longer have use for were in fine condition.  We were also well aware of the expense necessary to outfit a dorm room.  

A recycling project was born.  

Grad Bag started as a small grassroots effort.  We contacted our friends and neighbors—parents of recent college graduates—and gathered items that would otherwise have been thrown away.  We cleaned, folded and packaged all of the goods in our basements.  

We formed a partnership with Let’s Get Ready.  Let’s Get Ready (LGR) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that supports first generation college-bound and low-income high school students through the college admissions process and beyond.

To distribute the goods, we set up a “store” of dorm essentials at the LGR pre-college transition workshop held in early August.  After the students participated in the workshop classes, each student selected items from the Grad Bag collection.  

We anticipated the reaction of the first group of student recipients….

They filled bags and bags with gear, loved shopping for free, were aware of the dollars they were saving, and left feeling well prepared for college dorm life.   We were thrilled with the response from the students and felt great about recycling these still usable goods and being “green”.

This propelled us to increase our efforts in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017.  We now collect goods directly at colleges on move-out day in addition to our local work.  

We currently partner with Barnard College, Columbia University, Fordham University, Pace University- NYC and Pleasantville campuses, Sarah Lawrence College, Vassar College, SUNY Purchase and Wesleyan University in the New York area.  In 2015, we started a Boston branch of Grad Bag and partner with Babson College, Olin College, and Wellesley College.  

Since 2013, we have been fortunate to call Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale our New York home.  To accommodate the volume of goods this year, there will be six PODS parked at WRT for the summer.  Temple Shalom of Newton, Massachusetts graciously hosts the Grad Bag Boston effort. 

Last year we collected over 6,000 lbs. of linens in addition to lots of lamps, rugs, pillows, storage containers, fans, hangers and much more.   We geared hundreds of students for college in the fall and plan to support hundreds more this season.

As we have grown, we rely on a growing number of volunteers to help sort, clean, pack, load, unload and give away.  This year, we will continue to distribute everything at LGR transition workshops.  In the New York area, there will be workshops in New York City and Westchester County.   In the New England area, goods will be distributed at workshops in Boston and Maine.  

Grad Bag’s goal is to collect from more colleges, expand to more cities and distribute college essentials to a wider network of students.

- Liz Gruber and Tara Smith Tyberg