LIVINGSTON, NJ – This summer, NCJW/Essex held their 12th Annual Back 2 School Store, and first-ever Mobile Back 2 School Store (B2SS).
In previous years, the B2SS provided Essex County children in financial need a chance to “shop” for free clothing, sneakers, school supplies and personal care items in a one-day-only “store” set up just for them in the Livingston, NJ area.
However, due to the pandemic, social distancing requirements, and public health concerns, the traditional B2SS had to be completely re-imagined for 2020. Volunteers worked together to adapt the format and to make sure the children served would still be able to receive the many important items supplied by the B2SS to help ensure a great start to the upcoming school year.
In order to make this happen, volunteers set-up tents, created packing stations, and every morning for close to two weeks worked in small group shifts to ensure safety at a private home in Short Hills. Working outdoors in the extreme heat, volunteers packed individual backpacks and packages, then loaded them into vehicles for delivery to social service agencies located throughout Essex County, including Newark, East Orange, Livingston, Bloomfield and Montclair.
“It was a true logistical challenge packing and delivering hundreds of backpacks and supplies, but we did it thanks to everyone’s commitment and can-do attitude,” shared Penina Barr, NCJW/Essex President. “This effort is so important; we knew we couldn’t let the pandemic stop us.”
NCJW/Essex worked in collaboration with hundreds of donors who provided financial support and product donations. Due to the efforts of Livingston Town Councilman Michael Vieira, transportation provided by Essex County allowed NCJW/Essex to get hundreds of boxes with backpacks and packages to 40 partner agencies which then safely directly distributed these items to Essex County children in financial need.
According to the B2SS Committee Chairs, Laurie Schuftan, Stacey Laken, and Lauren Tabak Fass, the B2SS provided 1,000 children in Essex County with backpacks, school supplies, personal care items, face masks, games, and a handwritten note, each one created by one of the hundreds of NCJW/Essex volunteers of all ages participating in this initiative.
“The children and families in the Essex County community who are served by the Back 2 School Store have been among the hardest hit during these extraordinary times, and we knew we had to find a way to bring the store to them, safely and securely,” said Caitlin Higgins Joy, Executive Director of NCJW/Essex, adding, “we are so grateful to our volunteers who worked tirelessly to make this happen.”