The smiling faces of children at the Back 2 School Store never fail to capture our hearts. But what sometimes gets overshadowed in the excitement and bustle of the day is one very special aspect of the Back 2 School Store — the Gaelen Family Resource Center.
While children are busy in the Back 2 School Store “shopping” for free to select brand new clothing, sneakers, school supplies, backpacks and personal care items with the help of volunteer personal shoppers, the Gaelen Family Resource Center (GFRC) provides an opportunity for parents, caregivers and families to receive important health screenings, health information and community resources, all at no cost. With the growth of the Back 2 School Store, the GFRC has also grown as NCJW/Essex has increased its partnerships with numerous service providers and community organizations which are on-site on the day of the event.
NCJW/Essex is grateful to Audrey Gaelen and her late husband, Norbert, whose generosity sustains this critical component of the Back 2 School Store. “We spearheaded the GFRC as a way of giving parents and caregivers attending the Back 2 School Store an opportunity to receive services that aren’t always readily available to them,” explains Audrey Gaelen, a long-time member and supporter of NCJW/Essex. “It answers some of the needs that may not otherwise get addressed.” On occasion, the availability of such screenings leads to the detection of health problems that necessitate attention, and in those cases attendees are connected with health care providers for follow up.
“It makes me feel good to know that I am touching the community,” reflects Audrey on the evolution of the GFRC. “When I walk in I want to cry. I can see and feel the difference it is making.”