LIVINGSTON, NJ — Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy in Livingston played host to more than 800 economically disadvantaged children from throughout Essex County last weekend as they shopped for school supplies at the National Council of Jewish Women Essex County (NCJW/Essex) chapter’s 10th annual Back2School Store (B2SS).

Thanks to more than 500 volunteers who served as personal shoppers and donations from various local sponsors who helped NCJW/Essex purchase brand-new supplies, the kids shopped for free at the one-day pop-up “department store.” Several local dignitaries, including Livingston Mayor Ed Meinhardt, held a celebratory ribbon cutting prior to escorting the children into the store.

“This is a wonderful event run by NCJW, whose volunteers do a great job of providing so much for so many kids who are less fortunate,” said Meinhardt. “We are thankful to them for their volunteerism and the hours that they put in; and a special thanks to all of the sponsors, especially the key sponsors, who have provided them the resources to go buy everything that these kids need for school. Livingston and the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy were happy to be the hosts of this event.”

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The goal of the B2SS event is to help children start the school year off with confidence, style and a smile. This year, about 860 children from Newark, East Orange, Orange, Montclair, Bloomfield and other Essex municipalities were partnered with personal shoppers and outfitted for the first day of school with new backpacks, sneakers, school supplies, books, personal care items and clothing such as shirt, pants, winter jacket, sneakers, underwear, socks, hat and gloves.

According to event co-chair Karen Cherins, NCJW/Essex ensures that the store is as full in the afternoon as it is in the morning so that the children who are scheduled to shop later in the afternoon “do not feel that they are getting short-tripped.”

Cherins and fellow co-chairs Andrea Mintz and Stacey Laken, all Livingston residents who have been involved with this project since its inception 10 years ago, thanked everyone involved for “giving their time, their money and their effort on behalf of these children.”

“The project attracted us all in the beginning because it was targeted to our community—to where we live and work—and was a hands-on volunteer experience where you actually get to see the results of your volunteering,” said Cherins. “Whether it’s shopping with the child, or setting up, whatever you’re doing, you get to experience the smiles, the gratitude, the joy of giving back to these children and making back-to-school a positive experience for them.”

While the children shopped, the onsite Gaelen Family Resource Center offered parents and other caregivers helpful information about community resources and career services, as well as free health screenings and health information offered by University Hospital.

All photos are courtesy of NCJW/Essex.

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