LIVINGSTON, NJ, August 7, 2014– The National Council of Jewish Women, Essex County Section (NCJW/Essex) proudly celebrated its 6th Annual Back 2 School Store (B2SS) on Sunday, August 3rd at B’nai Shalom in West Orange. Every year, hundreds of children from kindergarten through fifth grade are able to “shop” cost-free for an array of brand new school supplies, clothes, and personal care items in a department-store-like setting created just for them. This year, 650 children shopped at the store with the aid of 375 volunteers. Since its inception in 2009, the B2SS has benefitted nearly 3000 children and utilized over 1,800 volunteers.
The day began with a ribbon cutting ceremony for dignitaries and supporters of the store led by Karen Cherins, immediate past president of NCJW/Essex, and B2SS chairwoman Ellen Legow. This year’s B2SS would not have been possible without major support from several corporate sponsors including Eastern Dental, Shoprite of Brookdale in Bloomfield and the soon-to-be-opened Shoprite of Newark on Springfield Ave., Janssen Supply Group, CarePoint Health and Tradeweb Markets LLC, along with the Ronald McDonald House Charities and the TJX Foundation. Following the ribbon cutting the store opened to “shoppers” at 10 am. As the children arrived, wide-eyed, and uncertain of what to expect, they signed in and met with their personal shoppers. Their first stop was a hallway lined with colorful backpacks and personal care items such as dental supplies and hairbrushes that they could put in their new backpacks. Once inside the ‘store’ is when the fun really began as children could pick out a full new outfit, complete with a winter coat, sneakers, pants, shirt, undergarments, socks, winter hats and gloves. “Clothes! I get new clothes too?!” exclaimed one young girl as she walked into the store with a huge grin. The children were encouraged to select styles they wanted and then try them on in dressing rooms set up just for them.
The personal shoppers were all extremely enthusiastic about helping the kids find their perfect outfit, and ensuring the children gained the most out of the experience. “It was wonderful to see the children light up, given an opportunity they never imagined they could have in their circumstances,” said Leslie Lavinthal, a volunteer personal shopper and committee co-chair. “I was overwhelmed by what a rewarding and heartwarming experience it was to volunteer at this amazing event.” The shoppers also assisted the children in trying on sneakers and then helped them fill their backpacks with school supplies such as notebooks, calculators, composition books and scotch tape.
While the children were ‘shopping,’ parents and guardians visited the Gaelen Family Resource Center where they could have blood pressure screenings, glucose tolerance testing, eye exams and learn about proper dental care for children. As the children finished shopping, they emerged with smiles from ear to ear carrying all their new gear to be reunited with their parents who shared their smiles. One mother from Newark, who brought her soon-to-be kindergarten son to the event, thanked NCJW/Essex for giving her son the opportunity to start the school year ready to learn. “This is the most awesome event of the year, thank you,” she remarked.
B2SS Photo 1: Volunteer Erica Silverman of Livingston helped Tommy at the Back 2 School Store pick out his brand new backpack, clothes and school supplies, all cost-free, at 6th Annual NCJW/Essex Back 2 School Store .
B2SS Photo 2: A young shopper at the 6th Annual NCJW/Essex Back 2 School Store tries on his new winter coat for size.
B2SS Photo 3: With the help of NCJW volunteer Linda Jacobs of Livingston (far left with clipboard), young Zara is all smiles as she picks out a new winter hat and a pair of gloves at the 6th Annual NCJW/Essex Back 2 School Store.
B2SS Photo 4: Volunteers Ali Blankmeyer (left) and Cara Silverman (right) are pictured with two girls from the East Orange Family Success Center after a great day of B2SS “shopping” cost-free at the 6th Annual NCJW/Essex Back 2 School Store.