Operation Teddy Bear LogoOperation Teddy Bear

Operation Teddy Bear® is our volunteer-powered literacy program that provides an educational boost through a kind gift - more than 4,000 schoolbags filled with books, educational materials and wellness tools, along with a lesson in kindness, compassion, volunteering and identifying emotions - to the most underserved first-graders in the South Bay, Harbor and Long Beach areas at the end of each calendar year. The program provides volunteers with an opportunity to help and inspire these children first-hand, by packing and delivering the bags, as well as interacting with and reading to the students in their classrooms. Click here to see videos of Operation Teddy Bear in action.

How Operation Teddy Bear Helps | Keeping Up with the Needs of the Students
How You Can Help | Our Generous Sponsors | Volunteers and Program Updates

The Need for Educational Support

An average of 76% of students in the school districts we serve live at or below the poverty line, making them eligible for the Free and Reduced Priced Meals. While our Food For Kids program helps with the dietary needs, many of these students also arrive at school without adequate educational supplies to begin their day. This can have dramatic negative effects on school performance, behavior, well-being and future academic success, creating special needs in education, literacy, self-esteem and social-emotional wellness.

Operation Teddy Bear student with teddy bear

OTB Teacher with supplies

Operation Teddy Bear Boy with BooksHow Operation Teddy Bear Helps...

The Students

Operation Teddy Bear addresses these needs by providing our signature schoolbags, educational materials and wellness tools to every first grade student at select schools in our service area each year. The schoolbags contain such items as reading and coloring books, writing journals, crayons, STEAM kits, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and of course, teddy bears!

The Teachers

OTB Volunteer with StudentsThe program also provides teachers with supplies, including items such as white board marker/eraser sets, tissues, pencils, crayons and glue sticks.

The Community

And that's not all. Our volunteers love taking the time to read an original story about “Teddy the volunteer” to the students, which facilitates a lesson about kindness, compassion, volunteering and identifying emotions, and uses the experience of receiving a gift as encouragement to "pay it forward." 

We also partner with GreenVetsLA and their nonprofit vocational rehabilitation program, Vets Corps USA, to produce the schoolbags locally, which provides job training for disabled, homeless and/or unemployed veterans.

This multi-faceted approach sets the students up for success and everyone wins!

Operation Teddy Bear student with STEM bookKeeping Up with the Needs of the Students

Each year, we survey the teachers/principals and consult with an advisory group of local teachers to gather feedback on the program and how it fits the students' needs. The feedback also allows us to adapt the materials as the school experience changes and evolves. For example, teachers had been requesting more quality non-fiction reading books and writing journals with room to draw pictures to help the students to better meet the Common Core Curriculum Standards. We were able to grant those requests in recent years, and this past year, we added two new items based on feedback we received: an engineer construction kit that helps the students learn to build two- and three-dimensional shapes and a volunteer-made "rekenrek" to assist each first-grader with concepts of math and counting - and calm fidgety fingers!

We also make changes to the program based on the latest community needs. This past year, the schoolbag included wellness items such as writing prompts to help the students identify their feelings and a note attached to the teddy bear suggesting they give the bear a hug and take a deep breath when they're nervous or afraid (shown in the video below!). The in-class lesson also included how to identify emotions. These additions were incorporated to address the mental health crisis facing youth nationwide and further the goals of the Volunteer Center's focus on this issue locally, while all of the improvements provide the students with even better tools they need to succeed and allow them to practice what they learned in class at home.

Revealing the surprise with volunteers from Kinecta

Special teddy bear instructions with volunteers from the Port of LA

How You Can Help

See Operation Teddy Bear in Action Make a Monetary Donation

Operation Teddy Bear® is funded entirely by donations from individuals, corporations and foundations. You can make an immediate impact on these students through a monetary donation (each bag costs approximately $60). 

Click here to donate and put Operation Teddy Bear in the notes section

 Sponsor a School

Companies and organizations can adopt an entire school as an Operation Teddy Bear SponsorClick here for more information.


Operation Teddy Bear Dental Supply Drive - August 22-September 30

Operation Teddy BearOne of the most coveted items in the Operation Teddy Bear schoolbag is the individually-wrapped toothbrush. While it may be hard for many of us to believe, a majority of the students we serve through this popular program do not have a toothbrush. Some even tell us that they share a toothbrush with other family members.

You can help us get ready for Operation Teddy Bear's 25th year by contributing single, individually-packaged youth or adult toothbrushes and/or travel-sized toothpaste to our Dental Supply Drive, now through September 30! Simply come by our Torrance office (1230 Cravens Ave.) Monday through Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. to leave your donations in the box in the lobby!

We've also made it easy to support the Dental Supply Drive by adding items to our Amazon.com Wish List. Click here to view our Wish List and add one or more items to your cart. You can choose to have the item(s) shipped directly to us at check out, and if you use AmazonSmile to shop, a percentage of eligible purchases comes to us too! (Click here for complete details on shopping through AmazonSmile.)


Operation Teddy Bear packing Volunteer

Community members can volunteer to help with Operation Teddy Bear in one of the following ways between August and December:

  • Collect supplies
  • Set up materials
  • Pack schoolbags
  • Deliver bags to schools
  • Read to the children
  • Provide administrative support

We are also grateful to the members of our Affinity Group for their support of the Operation Teddy Bear program. Click here to learn more.

For more information on ways you can help, contact us at programs@volcenter.org or (310) 212-5009.

Operation Teddy Bear is made possible thanks to the support our generous sponsors:

The Affinity Group


John Deere Foundation




The Molina Foundation


Port of Long Beach


QuinStar Technology, Inc.




Watson Land Company

California Water Service


Keenan & Associates


Los Angeles Trial Lawyers' Charities


The Rudolph J. and Daphne A. Munzer Foundation


Port of Los Angeles


Rotary Club of Manhattan Beach




Operation Teddy Bear Sponsors through the Affinity Group's Kids For Kids Fundraiser

ActivePDF, Inc.

Jean Adelsman

An Uncommon Journey

Bennett Landscape

Dianne Bozler

Virginia Butler and Les Fishman

Anne and Ray Destabelle

Nancy and Charles “Skip” Collinge

Griswold & Griswold Insurance Agency, Inc.

De De Hicks

Pam Barrett-Hill and Jim Hill

Marylyn Ginsburg-Klaus and Chuck Klaus

Joyce Kochanowski

Diana and Ray Martin

Medawar Fine Jewelers

Sandra Sanders, RE/MAX Estate Properties

Susan and Ray Seager

Shirley Starke-Wallace

Terranea Resort

Torrance Refining Company

Operation Teddy Bear® is a registered trademark of the Volunteer Center South Bay-Harbor-Long Beach.