Homeless Children's Education Fund, UPMC Health Plan and Citizens Bank Pave the Way for Pittsburgh Homeless Students' Success

Volunteers Load Buses Full of Backpacks, School Supplies for Local Children

Aug 21, 2015, 10:00 ET from UPMC Health Plan

PITTSBURGH, Aug. 21, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Over 2,000 Pittsburgh-area children experiencing homelessness received new backpacks and school supplies today for the upcoming school year, thanks to the help of three local organizations.

The Homeless Children's Education Fund (HCEF) partnered with UPMC Health Plan and Citizens Bank to collect school supplies and pack backpacks for students residing in local homeless provider agencies. The backpacks were loaded into school buses at the UPMC Distribution Facility on East Carson Street this morning and delivered to 25 local providers. Numerous volunteers and local officials lent a helping hand, including Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and State Sen. Wayne Fontana.

According to the National Center for Homeless Education, only 21.5 percent of elementary students experiencing homelessness are proficient in math and only 24.4 proficient in reading – both fundamental skills needed to set them on a firm educational path. HCEF and its partners aim to prevent such setbacks by building positive relationships and environments to improve school performance.

"While similar backpack programs in the area are diminishing, the need for these school supplies in our area continues to grow," said Bill Wolfe, executive director of Homeless Children's Education Fund. "Education for children who are living in shelters, moving from district to district, doubling up by living in friends' or relatives' homes or couch surfing is already a challenge. Thanks to our partners at UPMC Health Plan and Citizens Bank, as well as many individual contributors and volunteers, these children can start the school year off on a level playing field with their peers."

Last year, the Allegheny County Department of Human Services estimated 1,800 children within the county were experiencing homelessness. This year, that number has grown to at least 2,900 local students without a stable home.

"UPMC Health Plan is honored to partner with HCEF in this wonderful program that provides backpacks for homeless children," said Scott Lammie, Chief Financial Officer of UPMC Health Plan and Senior Vice President for the UPMC Insurance Services Division. "Engaging with our schools and community partners to ensure that all our children have the essential supplies they need to be able to learn and succeed in school is critical for these youth as they begin the new school year. We will fill these backpacks with school supplies, but we will also be filling them with hope for a better tomorrow for thousands of our children."

Child homelessness often goes unnoticed in many of Pittsburgh's townships and municipalities. All 43 Allegheny County school districts educate at least one student who is currently homeless.

"Citizens Bank is proud to support HCEF once again this year in its effort to make sure that all kids go back to school with the tools they need to succeed," said Dan Fitzpatrick, President, Citizens Bank of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. "It's heartwarming to see the number of people who donate school supplies and volunteer to stuff backpacks, and we are pleased to be involved in the effort."

In 2014, HCEF distributed over 2,200 backpacks to Allegheny County children in 25 homeless housing agencies, as well as schools and community organizations. School supplies donated included notebooks, writing and coloring utensils, folders, calculators and flash drives.

About Homeless Children's Education Fund

The Homeless Children's Education Fund (HCEF), a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, was established in 1999 to supplement federal funding for the educational needs of local homeless children. HCEF helps homeless children and youth realize their potential through a number of innovative educational programs inside our 27 partnering shelters and transitional housing facilities, as well as through advocacy work at the local, state and national level. For more information on the many programs we offer, please visit our website at www.homelessfund.org.

About UPMC Health Plan

UPMC Health Plan, headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pa., is among the nation's fastest-growing health plans. It is owned by UPMC, a world-renowned health care provider. As part of an integrated health care delivery system, UPMC Health Plan is committed to providing its members better health, more financial security, and the peace of mind they deserve.  UPMC Health Plan partners with UPMC and community network providers to produce a combination of knowledge and expertise that provides the highest quality care at the most affordable price. The UPMC Insurance Services Division – which includes UPMC Health Plan, UPMC WorkPartners, LifeSolutions, UPMC for Life, UPMC for You, UPMC for Kids, Askesis, and Community Care Behavioral Health – offers a full range of group health insurance, Medicare, Special Needs, CHIP, Medical Assistance, behavioral health, employee assistance, and workers' compensation products and services to over 2.6 million members. Our local provider network includes UPMC as well as community providers, totaling more than 125 hospitals and more than 11,500 physicians throughout Pennsylvania and parts of Ohio, West Virginia, and Maryland. For more information, visit www.upmchealthplan.com.

About Citizens Financial Group, Inc.

Citizens Financial Group, Inc. is one of the nation's oldest and largest financial institutions, with $137.3 billion in assets as of June 30, 2015. Headquartered in Providence, Rhode Island, Citizens offers a broad range of retail and commercial banking products and services to individuals, small businesses, middlemarket companies, large corporations and institutions. In Consumer Banking, Citizens helps its retail customers "bank better" with mobile and online banking, a 24/7 customer contact center and the convenience of approximately 3,200 ATMs and approximately 1,200 Citizens Bank branches in 11 states in the New England, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions. Citizens also provides mortgage lending, auto lending, student lending and commercial banking services in select markets nationwide. In Commercial Banking, Citizens offers corporate, institutional and not-for-profit clients a full range of wholesale banking products and services including lending and deposits, capital markets, treasury services, foreign exchange and interest hedging, leasing and asset finance, specialty finance and trade finance.

Citizens operates through its subsidiaries Citizens Bank, N.A., and Citizens Bank of Pennsylvania. Additional information about Citizens and its full line of products and services can be found at www.citizensbank.com.