Our stellar B2SS Steering Committee works throughout the year, scouring stores and websites, seeking deals, and searching for just the right items. Then it is time for the Steering Committee to kick into high gear and set up the store in an empty retail space provided for the past two years by sponsor Eastman Management. Two Men and A Truck – and a determined group of NCJW/Essex volunteers – pushed, carried and unpacked hundreds of boxes filled with clothes according to size and gender, all to get ready for six very full days of sorting, packing, checking, re-checking and filling up a “Dream Big” bag with a brand-new winter coat, socks generously donated by Bombas, underwear, age-appropriate books, and personal care items. More than 150 volunteers, including teams from our sponsors, participated in the B2SS this year. We thank each of them for their time and dedication.
This was the third year that the B2SS went “mobile” to adapt to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. While having the kids onsite for their shopping experience was greatly missed, the team was able to take requests for favorite colors, sizes and other special touches, to make the bag of items as unique as each child.
The Gaelen Family Resource Center morphed into a Family Resource bag distributed to each family, including a Guide to community resources and other informational material, along with menstrual products generously donated by Girls Helping Girls.Period. Our agency partners also told us that mental health was a big concern this year, so the Committee brainstormed and compiled a kit filled with stress relief tools for each child, including colorful squeeze balls, fidget spinners, pop-it keychains and other ways to put their minds at ease.
“Mental health is such a critical issue, and it speaks to our team’s flexibility that we are able to quickly address the changing needs of the children we serve,” said Lori Gelman, 2022 Back 2 School Co-Chair. “Building the stress relief tools allowed us to flex our creative muscles and add something really important to the Back 2 School Store that we’re hopeful will serve as a template for the future.”