NewsBack to School


Backpack Lady Project celebrates 10 years and 10,000 backpacks donated to elementary schools

"Phyllis from Philly" started it all
Backpack Lady Project
Posted at 4:32 AM, Aug 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-05 08:25:26-04

DUNEDIN, Fla. — "Phyllis from Philly" has been gone for 10 years, but her legacy is mightier than ever.

Rob Ditro admits his mom was a "colorful woman."

"Lots of profanity," says Ditro. An old-school Italian from South Philly."

After she died, Rob discovered that his mother, for all her gruffness, was secretly donating backpacks to a local church.

She told no one, not even her son. She wished to remain anonymous. The church simply knew her as "the Backpack Lady."

Ten years later, Rob's nonprofit, the Backpack Lady Project, has collected and donated some 10,000 backpacks and school supplies to every single elementary school in Pinellas County.

Every year the town of Dunedin, plus great chunks of the Tampa Bay area, honor Phyllis with thousands of physical and monetary donations.

Rob then hits the road, donating them across the county.

The Backpack Lady Project started as a back-to-school thing. Now, it's a year-round bonus for schools.

"I get calls from schools throughout the year," says Ditro. "They tell me, 'We need 10 backpacks, we need 20 backpacks, this boy lost his backpack."

Rob says donations are down this year, but he's hoping for a boost so he can continue to help all those families in need.

For more on the Backpack Lady Project, click here.