Many of us remember the excitement of having new clothes for a new school year. Thanks to NCJW, West Morris Section’s Back 2 School Store, almost 50 schoolchildren had that experience, too. The students ranged in age from 4 to 17 years old and all live in housing provided by Homeless Solutions, Inc., of Morristown. All had the opportunity to select back-to-school items—free of charge—at our event on August 6 at Morristown Jewish Center–Beit Yisrael (MJCBY).

The project was coordinated by Kim Ganz, Melanie Levitan and Karen Secular, who were supported by a cadre of volunteers from our section (including spouses and children) and from Morristown Jewish Center–Beit Yisrael. Girl Scouts from Bridgewater Troop 60627 helped set up the store over two days and provided babysitting and arts and crafts for younger siblings while the older children shopped.

Many volunteers cheerfully participated as “personal shoppers” to help the students try on clothes and sneakers, and choose from all the options. Each child shopped for at least two complete new outfits of clothing. Additional volunteers helped with setup and breakdown and other tasks before, during and after the event. All were critical to the success of the day.

Volunteers included Sue Rosenthal, Kay Salzman, Fran Schmelzer, Susan Neigher, Diana Drew Grayson, Robert Grayson, Rhonda Goldberger, Ilene Dorf Manahan, Peppi Glass, Melanie Gimbel, Macy Gimbel, Molly Gimbel, Marlene Ginsberg, Steve Ginsberg, Lisa Barta, Norm Barta, Alan Levitan, Joy Buchfirer, Donna Gross, Marcy Needle, Celeste Reingold, Shelley Lanzkowsky, Karen Secular, Kim Ganz, and Melanie Levitan.

By all accounts the students, their parents, and the staff from Homeless Solutions were very pleased with the Back 2 School Store—as were our volunteers— and had this to say, “Having new things is not always an option for these families so having an experience like this was very special. The children were asked in advance about their favorite colors and favorite characters so the “store” was tailored to their likes. It was a fun day for all! Seeing the happy faces leaving the “store” with their overstuffed bags was so heartwarming. We are so grateful to our superstar volunteers who made it all possible.”

The organizers are very appreciative of the generous monetary donations from Section members, which were used to purchase scores of shirts, pants, sneakers, underwear, socks, hats and gloves. Century21 department store provided shopping bags and a generous gift card, and Kohl’s offered significant discounts. 

Special thanks to MJCBY Executive Director Gerry Gross and custodian Damonn Brown of MJCBY for graciously allowing us to use the beautiful ballroom and social hall and for storing our items, schlepping boxes up and down the steep stairs, setting up the tables and chairs, and helping with everything we needed on the day of the event. Congregant Lew Stone configured the clever and useful dressing rooms for our shoppers.

Our section was inspired to create this event by a very successful effort in Essex County that has served more than 5,000 schoolchildren over 10 years. We don’t aspire to their numbers but we do hope to offer this experience to students next year!