A story where the answer is in the investment. 

“What do we tell the kids?”, a question the State Bags Co-Founders, Scot and Jacqueline Tatelman, asked themselves when only one narrative about Chicago seemed to be making headlines. With a reputation that precedes itself, the Windy City, known for its unbearable winters, irresistible and festival packed summers, loyal fans, and violence, the unprecedented violence that plagues this city has lead to Chicago bearing labels like “Chiraq” and “war zone”. Despite Chicago’s rising death tolls and unspeakable gun violence, there’s unity, love, and a tangible compassion that permeates this city. This is the story State Bags has set out to tell the children. There is more to this city than what meets the eye.

State Bags is on a mission to ensure that kids are hearing more than just stories about their neighborhoods being violent, hopeless, and in disarray. State Bags Co-founder, Scot Tatelman insists that this narrative is harmful, stating that “It’s not fair for kids to be internalizing because in some ways that gives them the sense that they are hopeless, violent and in disarray. We wanted to change that narrative.”

State Bags is a for-profit organization that has adopted the 1 for 1 giving model to provide youth with quality backpacks. When co-founders Scot and Jacq Tatelman noticed countless kids in their New York-based summer camps, carrying their possessions in their trash bags, they opted to step in and do their part of solving a problem. They set out to not just provide students with much-needed backpacks and miscellaneous supplies but also with dignity, encouragement, and the necessary tools to help them reach their full potential. This endeavor became known as a “Bag Drop”. During a “Bag Drop” leaders of the team, affectionately known as “packmen and packwomen” lead a group of kids in an energetic, encouraging, and powerful rally and distribute State Bags Backpacks and school supplies. The backpacks handed out are the very same ones available for purchase on the website which allows students to maintain their dignity in receiving the donation. Founder Scot explained that “We wanted to take the 1 for 1 model home to serve kids in the U.S. Companies were doing great work for kids overseas, but we saw a need here in the U.S. so for every bag we sell we donate one to kids living in situations in need here in the States.”

On August 8th of this year, the State Bags team, complete with the Packmen and Packwomen, hosted a Bag Drop at the Chicago White Sox stadium. Kids of all ages walked through tunnels of eager State Bags volunteers and employees screaming with excitement at their arrival. The events of the day were kept hidden from the kids. They had no idea what was about to occur as they filed into the seats in their brightly colored Boys and Girls club t-shits. Their faces were full of cautious excitement. Their eyes expressed uncertainty for what the day would bring. The Packmen and Packwomen took the stage and danced to the tunes of the DJ and shouted words of encouragement. Their message of integrity, hard work, and perseverance only served to increase the excitement among the children.

While the kids danced and shouted responses back to the Packmen and Packwomen, the remaining State Bags volunteers and staff loaded up their arms with red and blue backpacks. They flooded the aisles and surprised the kids with their very own backpacks. Some reached out eagerly, quickly realizing that these were for them. Others hesitated, almost frozen at the generosity. Once every student had a backpack, the Packmen instructed everyone to line up and head down to the field. When they got close, they could see the tables upon tables that were lined up full of school supplies, belts, socks, and portable lunches. They each received notebooks, planners, pencils, and folders to place in their brand new backpacks. Many of the students walked back to their seats squealing and dancing to the music. While others seemed dazed, almost bewildered at the unexpected generosity, the day brought. But every child, indeed sat back down with an overwhelming understanding that they were believed in, so much so, that they were INVESTED in.

In many cases, these kids are and will continue to face an unfathomable uphill battle. But today, they got a new narrative, a fresh perspective. All of this occurred because of one question “What do we tell the kids?”

Organizations like State Bags don’t just ask the hard questions. They mobilize to become the answer. They took their for-profit company and created a way to have a lasting social impact. Their efforts center around the idea that they want to do more than giving handouts, they want to change the entire narrative.

When asked what was one thing he would tell a Chicago kid, Co-founder Scot said, “There are people out there who are looking beyond the noise, and they acknowledge the fact that you are rising above the noise. Although there is negativity swirling around you and things feel dark, there are people out there who will give you a chance and who believe in you and who will understand that you are rising to the occasion and you blocking out the noise will pay dividends down the road.”

Learn more about how State Bags is changing the narrative for kids around Chicago and the U.S., as well as their partnership with Chance the Rapper at www.statebags.com

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