By ED FINKELSTEIN
Creve Coeur, MO – Eighteen volunteers from six building trades unions and the Missouri AFL-CIO provided the manpower recently to help the National Council of Jewish Women, St. Louis Chapter (NCJW), ready their annual “Back 2 School Store” that last Sunday provided some 1,500 underserved children with school supplies and clothing to help launch their new school year.
Organized by Missouri AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Jake Hummel, whose wife, St. Louis Alderwoman Sara Martin, is a NCJW volunteer, the union members helped with setting up the store and the more labor-intensive tasks of building dressing rooms for the children to try on clothes, moving and unloading heavy boxes and helping NCJW volunteers organize clothes and school supplies and set up the shopping tables.
Laid out like a department store at Temple Israel in west St. Louis County, the children, aided by an adult volunteer, “shop” for:
• Clothing items: a new school outfit complete with shirt, pants, shoes, package of socks and underwear, winter coat, gloves and hat.
• School items: a backpack filled with school supplies, including new books and a variety of personal care items.
Since the program was launched in 2001, almost 13,000 elementary school children have been served. The names are provided by some 45 social agencies, churches and synagogues. All the clothes and products are brand new, donated by a host of companies with fill-in items purchased throughout the year with donations.
GET KIDS EXCITED
“Our goal is to get kids excited about their first day of school and to help them feel good about themselves. It’s all about the children’s self esteem and helping them successfully start their educational year,” said NCJW Executive Director Ellen Alper.
“We are really pleased to be able to help,” said Hummel. “The manpower we provide to help set up the store is a vital part of getting this great effort off the ground. Thanks to all the union volunteers. They were great at doing the heavy chores, which made a big difference for the effort.
“This is only one of so many examples where our unions throughout the state step up to help a huge number of organizations and charities,” he added. “Giving back is in our union DNA.”
‘BLESSED TO HAVE GREAT UNIONS’ HERE
“And we do appreciate their efforts,” Alper added. “The guys are great, not only in the work they do, but the spirit they bring to the effort. We are blessed to have such great unions in St. Louis and throughout Missouri.”
Volunteers turned out from Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1, Insulators Local 1, Bricklayers Local 1, Sheet Metal Workers Local 36, Painters District Council 58, the St. Louis-Kansas City Regional Carpenters District Council and the Missouri AFL-CIO.
More than 600 NCJW volunteers worked the store last Sunday. The St. Louis NCJW raises $180,000 to $200,000 annually for the effort. For items that are not donated, they shop throughout the year at various sales times. In addition to corporate and major donations, some 300 individuals sponsor a child with a $180 donation that totally outfits a child.
‘KIDS CLOSETS’ FOR 23 SCHOOLS
But the NCJW effort doesn’t stop with this one-day event.
All left-over clothing and supplies not distributed on the Store shopping day are put into 23 public schools in special NCJW-built Kids Community Closets so kids who need them can get clothing and supplies all year long as needed, said NCJW Marketing Manager Stacy Kress.
For more information on how you can help, or to make a donation, go to ncjwbacktoschool.com.