Empowering children in kindergarten through fifth grade to understand how to make choices, boost their self-esteem and attend school with a positive attitude is the goal of the National Council of Jewish Women and its Peninsula and South Shore sections as they prepare for their second annual Back 2 School Store event on July 27.
A wide array of clothing, including winter coats, sneakers, backpacks, school supplies and toiletries, is available for students to choose from. To help instill self-confidence in the children, their parents do not shop with them; instead, they are assisted by an adult volunteer personal shopper. They check off their school supply list and choose what they need and want. And the NCJW offers a Family Resource Center for their parents, where free health screenings are conducted and information on nutrition and community and social services is available.
Approximately 400 children were pre-selected by social service agencies, churches, synagogues and community service organizations. The event is closed to the public, but the NCJW is seeking donations to purchase the needed items. Children still affected by Hurricane Sandy have also been included.
The organization’s Peninsula and South Shore sections saw the success that the Essex County Section, based in Livingston, N.J., had with its own Back 2 School Store and decided to replicate it in the aftermath of Sandy. “We saw a need in the community to have better access to clothing and supplies,” said NCJW member Hope Coleman, the event’s chairwoman. “Linda Tolkin, our executive director said, ‘We’ve got to do this.’ So we’re doing it, and after Hurricane Sandy we saw more of a need.”
Coleman conducted research, gathered other NCJW members and contacted community agencies. Then the women visited New Jersey. “We were delighted,” said Essex County Section President Karen Cherins. “They spent a weekend at the store. It’s a wonderful event to better the lives of women, children and families.”
Cherins’s section is holding its sixth store event this year, which will accommodate up to 750 children, she said. They first learned of the store from the NCJW section in St. Louis. “We are in Essex County, with Newark, Irvington and East Orange,” Cherins said. “We definitely saw a need for this kind of thing in the community. There are various organizations doing backpack and school supplies, but nothing like outfitting a child from top to toe.” According to a 2013 report by Legal Services of New Jersey, Essex County’s poverty rate was the highest of the state’s 21 counties.
“It just feels like you did the right thing,” said Oceanside resident Nancy Steinberg, who became aware of the store through her friendship with Coleman. “It is a pleasure to be involved in something Hope is so passionate about.”
Steinberg, an early childhood special education teacher, and her husband, Bobby, an attorney, have donated to the Peninsula/South Shore store and volunteered there as personal shoppers. Bobby, an emergency medical technician, has conducted blood pressure screenings. The Steinbergs, who have two sons, have donated $180 both years, which outfits one child with new clothing, sneakers, school supplies, books, a backpack and toiletries. “I am enhancing the lives of children not as fortunate as my children,” Nancy said.
Donations can be made online at www.ncjwpeninsula.org, by calling the Peninsula Section office at (516) 569-3660 or by mailing a check, payable to Back 2 School Store, to Back 2 School Store, NCJW Peninsula Section, 342 Central Ave., Lawrence, N.Y. 11559.