The National Council of Jewish Women recently held its fourth annual Back 2 School Store benefiting more than 500 local economically disadvantaged children.
The youngsters, ages 5 through 11, enjoyed shopping cost-free for an array of brand new clothes, school supplies and personal care items at B’nai Shalom in West Orange on Sunday.
“Watching the looks of pure joy and excitement on the children’s faces truly put everything into perspective for me,” said Karen Cherins, president of NCJW Essex Section. “Many of these youngsters have never had anything but hand-me-downs and this year they can proudly sport their own new clothes and supplies as they go back to school fully equipped to learn.”
The Back 2 School Store was set up to look like a department store in a 4,000-square-foot space donated by B’nai Shalom and filled with merchandise. With the assistance of more than 300 NCJW volunteer “personal shoppers,” each child was escorted throughout the “store” to select and try on items for a complete new outfit including a shirt, pants, underwear, socks, and winter jacket, among other things.
Volunteers also acted as shoe fitters, staffed private fitting rooms and restocked inventory. The children received new backpacks filled with school supplies and personal-care items. The children were identified from over 35 different social service agencies and arrived with their parents.
All merchandise was brand new, purchased at major retail stores by NCJW volunteers with generous financial contributions from local individuals, families, foundations, and businesses. All items were donated to the participating children.
“It felt great to be a part of something doing so much obvious good,” said Jaime Ebright, a NCJW volunteer. “The kids were fantastic and it was incredibly rewarding to see how much they were enjoying the process. I loved seeing their eyes light up when they realized they could pick whatever they wanted. It was a real reminder of how fortunate we all are.”
Parents also attended the Gaelen Family Resource Center, a program dedicated to promoting healthy families by empowering parents and caregivers with information and resources not readily available to them. Services and information offered included blood pressure screenings, glucose tolerance testing, eye exams and proper dental care for children.
“After our family lost so much in a house fire, it is comforting to us to have the help of such a great organization,” said Ruben Lopez, father of three children. “This teaches our children the important lesson of helping the community.”
For more information about the Back 2 School Store, go to www.ncjwessex.org.