Unions pitch-in again to set up ‘Back To School Store’ providing 1,500 under-served kids with clothes, school supplies


Volunteers from IBEW 1, Sheet Metal Workers 36, Painters District Council 58, Carpenters turned out to help set up store


WORKING FOR THE KIDS – Helping to get the National Council of Jewish Women’s “Back to School! Store” ready for an expected surge of 1,500 under-served youngsters shopping for clothes and school supplies last week were (from left) Chris Clermont, IBEW Local 1; Wendell Harris and Gary Otten, Painters District Council 58; Ted Ramsdell, Sheet Metal Workers Local 36, Mike Newton and Chuck DeMoulin, IBEW Local 1, Jeremy Snyder, Sheet Metal Workers Local 36 and Steve Muehling, IBEW Local 1. – Labor Tribune photo

Once again our unions respond to a call for help to make the charitable efforts of yet another civic organization successful.

Thirteen volunteers from four unions spent the day July 17 with dozens of other community volunteers helping put together the “Back To School Store” sponsored annually by the National Council of Jewish Women, St. Louis Chapter (NCJW). Last year the store provided some 1,500 under-served children with clothing and school supplies they need to begin the new school year.

Unions volunteers from IBEW Local 1 were Mike Newton, Chuck DeMoulin, Chris Clermont and Steve Muehling; from Sheet Metal Workers Local 36 Ted Ramsdell and Jeremy Snyder; from the Painters District Council 58 Gary Otten and Wendell Harris; and five members from the Carpenters Council.

Organized by Missouri AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Jake Hummel, whose wife is a NCJW volunteer, the union volunteers set up the dressing rooms for the children to try on clothes, moved and unloaded heavy boxes and helped the volunteers with organizing and setting up the shopping tables and areas.

Set up like a department store at Temple Israel in St. Louis County, the children, aided by an adult volunteer, “shopped” for:

  • Clothing items: an entire new school outfit complete with shirts and pants for the boys, blouses and skirts or slacks for the girls and for everyone, shoes, socks, underwear, winter coat, gloves and hat.
  • School items: a new backpack filled with school supplies, including new books, pencils, pens, crayons and a variety of personal care items.

Since the program was launched in 2001 by NCJW over 15,000 elementary school children from low-income families have been able to start their school year with pride. The names are provided by some 50 social agencies, churches and synagogues across the St. Louis area who screen for children in need. All the clothes and products are brand new donated by a host of companies and then shortages are filled-in with items purchased by NCJW throughout the year from community donations. It costs about $180 to outfit one child.

Additionally, left over items are donated to NCJW’s “Kids Community Closets” serving 24 area elementary schools so needy children can get clothing and supplies all year long as needed. A child can access a Closet with a referral from a school counselor or administrator. Over 9,000 children currently have access to a Kids Community Closet on any given day.

“We really do appreciate the unions’ efforts,” said NCJW Executive Director Ellen Alper. “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.”

Alper proudly noted that the NCJW supported the Labor Movement’s fight against Proposition A last year that soundly defeated the effort by Republican legislators to make Missouri a phony, anti-worker “right-to-work” state. That support included a full-page ad in the St. Louis Jewish Light the week just before the election urging a “NO” vote.

More than 600 community volunteers worked the Stores one-day shopping bonanza on Sunday, July 21 at Temple Israel. 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, several hundred individuals sponsor a child with a $180 donation.



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