For many parents, helping their children prepare for the beginning of a new school year can be financially challenging. With the need to purchase school supplies, clothes and shoes, the expenses can add up and even multiply when a family has more than one child. That’s why the “Back 2 School Store,” an annual event sponsored by the National Council of Jewish Women, Essex Section (NCJW/Essex) and held at B’Nai Shalom in West Orange since 2009, is so helpful.
Held August 3 this year, the event helps pre-identified children from Essex County get ready for the new school year by providing them with pants, shirts, sneakers, undergarments, a winter jacket, and a backpack—all for free. These children also receive school supplies (including binders, notebooks, pencils, a calculator and dictionary), as well as personal care items. The items are new and are purchased or donated by NCJW/Essex and its sponsoring partners. The children, assisted by NCJW/Essex volunteers, “shop” for these items and select what they like, without the assistance of a parent or guardian—a rare treat for youngsters eager to feel “grown up.” Although the Back 2 School Store is held in a synagogue, the 4,000 square foot space that is used for the event is set up to resemble an actual department store.
As in previous years at the Back 2 School Store, parents and other caregivers of the children visited the Gaelen Family Resource Center in B’nai Shalom while they shopped. During the event, the Gaelen Family Center was comprised of various social service agencies and community programs. In addition, University Hospital, Rutgers School of Nursing, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School Institute of Ophthalmology and Visual Science, and Rutgers School of Dental Medicine provided various health screenings and education. This included 209 diabetes screenings, approximately 200 blood pressure screenings, and 51 eye disease screenings. The New Jersey Children’s Health Project, a Rutgers School of Nursing mobile clinic, was on-site as well, and nursing students provided height, weight and BMI measurements to nearly 30 children.
As reported by the NCJW/Essex, their first Back 2 School Store in 2009 served 250 children. The program has grown tremendously with the 2014 event serving between 650-700 children.
Additional photos from the event can be seen here: http://tinyurl.com/lrlbor7.