Bunker Labs New York City

Supplying homeless Veterans a symbol of hope – Alexa Modero of Backpacks For Life

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Stories Series: Alexa Modero – City Leader of Bunker Labs New York City

Alexa Modero admits that she didn’t quite know what to expect when her boyfriend Brett D’Alessandro was deployed in 2014. The couple met during their time together at the University of Rhode Island and after accepting an invitation to the Marine Corps Ball, the rest was history. They began to date but shortly after, Brett was deployed to Afghanistan. After he was honorably discharged, Modero struggled to find ways to help Brett re-acclimate to civilian life back home. It wasn’t until a chance encounter with a homeless veteran that the next chapter began to fall into place for the duo.

Modero grew up in New Jersey and after graduating from college Cum Laude, she began a four year role in retail buying and planning at apparel company Sam Edelman. This experience would prove invaluable for her as she and D’Alessandro began to develop their non-profit, Backpacks for Life. The organization began as a very grassroots effort. Just the two of them personally bringing backpacks filled with helpful supplies to homeless veterans around the New York City and New Jersey area. From there, it grew into much more than just giving veterans supplies. The couple tapped into their network to also provide resources to homeless and at risk vets. This included connecting individuals to services like mentoring and job coaching but also mental health counseling and a number of different therapy options. 

Eventually, Backpacks for Life began to garner national recognition and in April of 2018 Modero left her day job to focus on the non-profit full time. The 501(c)(3) began to partner with a growing number of other veteran-related non-profits. As they grew, Modero and D’Alessandro received more and more feedback from veterans and decided to begin manufacturing their own backpack specifically made with at-risk veterans in mind. From this decision, the Bowery pack was born. 

The Bowery pack is a multi-use backpack that has design elements made for the streets using military-grade materials. The couple paired up with North Carolina-based manufacturer Tsuga to create the backpacks so that every detail is perfected. Operations at the production facility will be overseen by transitioning military looking to get into the manufacturing industry through a partnership with One Veteran at a Time (OVAAT).

Backpacks for life has now distributed over 5,900 backpacks in 15 states and continues to grow. In August 2018, Modero and D’Alessandro were accepted into the Veterans in Residence Program and later that year Modero became the city leader for New York City. Since then, the couple has used all of their lessons from along the way to help other veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs succeed.

Alexa Modera’s City Leader Insights Video: