30 Seconds With… Paige Davis and Operation Backpack

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In this ongoing feature, WCBS culture critic Jim Taylor shares 30 seconds with the theatre stars and upstarts of NYC. From Broadway to Off-off, Jim tracks down the talent and gets them to spill just enough for our collectively shortened attention spans.

Paige Davis is the star of TV’s Trading Spaces and Broadway’s Chicago. But she’s also the face of Operation Backpack, Volunteers of America’s annual campaign to distribute backpacks to New York City’s homeless youth — just in time for a new school year. We chatted about her involvement.

Paige Davis: The dirty little secret about volunteering is it’s the most selfish thing you can do. To see the faces of these children who are receiving backpacks — it’s extremely powerful and very rewarding.

Jim Taylor: But it’s beyond a feel-good thing, right?

PD: When you have a recognizable name and face, I think you feel an obligation to lend it to something positive. Celebrities need to give back. I do believe that.

JT: In your case, giving thousands of backpacks to homeless kids in all five boroughs.

PD: Most of the children who are in the heart of the Volunteers of America homeless shelter system, they don’t often see anything new at all, so to have anything brand new is special. But to have something that is brand new, that allows them to be truly prepared and ready to go to school… and also ready to go to school looking and feeling like their housed classmates on that first day.

And these are not one-size-fits-all. We stuff those backpacks with things that are grade-specific. Kindergartners get crayons, middle schoolers get protractors, older students get dictionaries. You donate by dropping whatever you can off at any Duane Reade store.

JT: And if we want more info?

PD: Go to operationbackpacknyc.org and all that information will be right there.

JT: I just went to the Paige Davis website and found it.

PD: Thank you! Awesome! That’s one more hit for me!