Unions pitch in to help set up ‘Back 2 School Store’ to provide 1,100 kids in need with clothing, school supplies

UNION VOLUNTEERS pitched in to help set up clothing changing stations (in background) for the 18th annual “Back 2 School Store” sponsored by the National Council of Jewish Women, St. Louis Chapter, to provide school supplies and clothing to some 1,400 children in need. Union volunteers included (from left) Painters Local 2341’s Wendell Harris, IBEW Local 1 members Steve Muehling and Mike Newton, Missouri AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Jake Hummel, (IBEW Local 1) and son Tim, 13; Carpenters St. Louis-Kansas City Regional Council Representatives Mark Dalton, Scott Byrne, Brian Doerr, Kevin Haynes and Steve Pinkley and Painters District Council 58 Political Director Gary Otten. – Labor Tribune photo

‘Blessed to have such great unions here’ National Council of Jewish Women says; over 15,000 children served since inception in 2001



The heart of our unions was on display once again helping the community as 10 volunteers from three local building trades unions and the Missouri State Labor Council provided manpower to the National Council of Jewish Women, St. Louis chapter (NCJW), to help ready the Council’s annual “Back 2 School Store,” which, on July 30, provided some 1,100 underserved children with an entire outfit of clothing and all the school supplies they will need to launch their new school year.

Organized by Missouri AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Jake Hummel, whose wife, St. Louis Alderwoman Sarah Martin, is a NCJW volunteer, the union members –– volunteers from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1, St. Louis-Kansas City Carpenters Regional Council, Painters District Council 58 and the Missouri AFL-CIO –– set up dressing rooms for the children to try on clothes, moved and unloaded heavy boxes and joined other volunteers organizing clothes and school supplies and setting up the shopping tables.

PENCILS READY – Painters Local 2341’s Wendell Harris (right) and Painters District Council 58’s Gary Otten get the pens and pencils ready – so many pens and pencils – at the Back 2 School Store.   – Labor Tribune photo

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

• Clothing items: a new school outfit complete with shirts and pants for the boys, blouses and skirts or slacks for the girls, and the essentials of shoes, socks, underwear, a winter coat, gloves and a 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, almost 15,000 elementary school children, whose names are provided by some 50 churches, synagogues and social service agencies, have been able to start their school year with pride.

All the clothes, school supplies and personal care items are brand new, donated by a host of companies, with any gaps filled in with items purchased by NCJW throughout the year from community donations. Organizers said it costs about $180 to outfit one child.


“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 their child’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, a member of IBEW Local 1. “The manpower we provide to help set up the store is a vital part to getting this great effort off the ground. I have to thank our union brothers for their volunteer efforts this year and in many prior years. Their help made a big difference, like it does every year.

“This is only one of so many examples where our unions throughout the state step up to help hundreds, if not thousands, of organizations and charities,” he added. “Giving back is in our union DNA.”

SETTING UP curtains for the changing stations, Carpenters Representatives Scott Byrne (left) and Steve Pinkley help ready the Back 2 School Store for the young shoppers. – Labor Tribune photo


“We appreciate their efforts,” Alper told the Labor Tribune. “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 said, proudly noting how the NCJW supported the Labor Movement’s fight against Proposition A, including taking out a full-page ad in the St. Louis Jewish Light the week before the Aug. 7 vote.

More than 600 community volunteers stepped up to work the Back 2 School Store on Sunday, July 29.

The St. Louis NCJW raises $180,000 to $200,000 annually to support the effort by purchasing items at sale times throughout the year to make up for any items that aren’t donated.

Hundreds of individuals also contribute to sponsor a child with a $180 donation.


The NCJW effort isn’t limited to the one-day event; it extends throughout the school year.

NCJW Marketing Manager Stacy Kress said any leftover clothing and supplies not distributed at the Back 2 School Store are distributed to 24 public schools in special NCJW-built Kids Community Closets where children can get clothing and supplies as needed throughout the school year. The school stores are restocked throughout the year as funding is available, she said.

For information on how you can help, or to make a donation, visit ncjwbacktoschool.com.


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