More than 1,300 elementary youngsters will go back to school this fall with ample school supplies and clothing thanks to the incredible, year-long effort of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), this year aided by efforts of Labor in helping set up the Council’s annual “Back to School! Store.”
NCJW’s program, now in its 16th year, is a one-day shopping event for underserved families recruited in advance by 45 area social service agencies, churches and community groups. Set up like a department store, the children, aided by an adult volunteer, “shop” for:
• Clothing items: a new school outfit complete with shirt, pants, shoes, socks, underwear, winter coat, gloves, and hat.
• School items: a backpack filled with school supplies, books, and a variety of personal care items.
Since the program was launched in 2001, over 10,000 elementary school children have been served. All the clothes are brand new.
IMPROVING SELF ESTEEM
“Children leave the Back to School! Store with the supplies they will need to focus all of their attention on learning and with increased self-esteem and excitement about the first day of school,” said NCJW Executive Director Ellen Alper.
This year Missouri AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Jake Hummel, who has worked with this effort for many years, recruited other union members to help with setting up the Store, doing one of the more labor-intensive efforts of building dressing rooms for the children to ensure the fit of their new clothes. In addition, they moved heavy boxes and helped the volunteers with organizing and setting up the shopping tables and areas.
Working with smiles and cheers were Hummel, St. Louis-Kansas City Carpenters Regional Council Business Representatives Todd Hake and Dan Neiswander, AFL-CIO Political Director for Missouri and Iowa Josh Burke and St. Louis Labor Council’s Community Outreach Director (and state representative) Josh Peters.
‘HAPPY TO HELP’
Hummel, involved with the program for several years, was originally recruited by his wife who is an active NCJW member.
“We were happy to pitch in and help. The Missouri AFL-CIO has been a sponsor for years. NCJW volunteers spent days with the physical chores in setting up the store and so I thought a little manpower would help. It did. They told us we saved them days of physical labor,” Hummel said.
‘KIDS CLOSETS’ FOR 21 SCHOOLS
But NCJW effort doesn’t stop with this one-day event.
All the left over clothing and supplies that have been collected throughout the year not distributed on the Store shopping day are put into NCJW-built Kids Community Closets serving children in 21 public schools and the Jewish Family & Children Services facilities so that they can get clothing and supplies all year long as needed. Another 3,000 to 4,000 children take advantage of the Closet in their school during the year.
The NCJW raise about $180,000 annually to fund the program from grants, individual donations, from companies providing excess clothing and school supplies and the proceeds from the Council’s ReSale Shop in Creve Coeur. It takes $180 to outfit one child.
There are 10 to 15 volunteer shoppers throughout the year to fill a pre-planned needs list. More than 500 volunteers are involved in various aspects of the program throughout the year.
“We find that Black Friday is a great shopping day, especially for coats,” said NCJW Marketing Manager Stacy Kress. “We can really stretch our buying power because we need so many sizes and options for the kids.”
The store was open on Sunday, July 24 at Temple Israel in St. Louis County.
For more information on how you can help or to make a donation, go to ncjwbtss.org.
Lemonade stand raises $2,000
to support Back to School! Store
Enthused by their mother’s ongoing support of The Back to School! Store as a member of National Council of Jewish Women, her two young sons, for the past three years, have sponsored a lemonade stand to raise money for school supplies for other youngsters in need.
As a result, the young entrepreneurs helped bake cookies and other goodies (of course with mom’s help), made signs and set up two lemonade stands in their front yard at different times.
Meet Sam Abeles, 7, and Tucker Abeles, 6, who raised a total of $902 this year. Their lemonade stand has raised more than $2,000 over the past three years, enough to buy supplies and clothes for 11 children.
“My husband and I are so proud of them,” said a grinning from ear-to-ear mom Jenny Abeles. “They really enjoy pitching in knowing they are helping others.”
It takes $180 to support one child. If you would like to help, donations can be made through National Council of Jewish Women’s website: ncjwbtss.org.
Kudos to Sam and Tucker. Someday you’ll be reading about the successes these two young boys will have in the adult business world.