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Junior League’s Newest Members Remodel New Book Pantry for Elementary School Children in Need

  Top Left: Lisa Vick, Provisional Co-Chair; Christine Cofer; Tonya Kittur; Elizabeth Duncan Pederson, Past President (2009-2010); Rie Oberliesen, Roberta Destri; Orange Mayor Eldridge Hawkins, Jr.   Bottom Left: Cynthia Tratnyek, Provisional Co-Chair; Michele Keaveney; Wana Petrucco; Jeanette McDermott; Laura Perry; Christine Ploetner; Meredith Amico; Iris Tan   Provisional Members not pictured: Cheryl Darmanin; Kristi Gerstel; Shanease Guion-Davis; Jody Miller; Felicia Storey; Lauren Teetsel

The newest members of the Junior League of the Oranges and Short Hills (JLOSH) are celebrating the completion of their first volunteer project, remodelling a new Book Pantry at the Cleveland Street Elementary School in Orange. A ribbon cutting ceremony took place on Thursday, April 5, 2012 to mark the opening. JLOSH members and school staff were joined by Orange Mayor Eldridge Hawkins, Jr., Orange Assistant Superintendent Dr. Paula Howard and Orange Board of Education President Patricia Arthur. In addition, a group of third grade students prepared a special musical presentation for attendees to mark the opening.

Over the past two months, JLOSH partnered with the Cleveland School to transform a classroom into an inviting space where school children can obtain new and gently used books they can take home and keep. The space is staged to feel like a bookstore whereby students can read books, listen to audio books and work on a computer.

The project was envisioned by the Cleveland School’s Social Worker Carol Lukoff and realized with the assistance of JLOSH to address the concern that many students of the school do not own books of their own nor have they ever had the pleasure of visiting a bookstore. It is the aim of the Book Pantry to aid the Cleveland School in fulfilling its mission to promote literacy and a lifelong love of reading among its students.

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The renovation involved freshly painted walls, new furniture, window treatments and artwork. In addition, 8200 much-needed books were secured from various donors and book drives, including a recent event JLOSH sponsored at [words] Bookstore in Maplewood on Sunday, March 25, 2012. About 30 children and their parents came out to hear a reading by children’s author Hallie Durand and music by Kelly Heinze of Music & More.

“Our newest members did an amazing job remodelling and stocking free books for the Book Pantry,” stated Kat Eklund, President of JLOSH. “They created a truly magical place that I believe will make a difference in the life of every child that walks into that room. This is a perfect example of how we train our volunteers to go out into the community and really make a difference. We are so grateful that the Cleveland Street Elementary School gave us the opportunity to work with them on this project.”

Orange Mayor Eldridge Hawkins, Jr., said, "On behalf of the City of Orange, I thank the Junior League for their partnership in the future success of our youth. The ribbon cutting ceremony at Cleveland Street School was a great success. I was and remain very proud of the children that performed and expressed excitement about reading books. These are the types of partnerships our administration encourages that make a difference."

Denise White, Principal of the Cleveland Street Elementary School, added, “The Cleveland Street School Family appreciates all the time, effort and hard work of the volunteers from the Junior League. Our students have limited access to books and this donation will make a tremendous difference in their lives. They are excited and have already selected books to read. The Book Pantry will forever be an integral part of our reading program.”

JLOSH would like to thank the many friends and family of the League who have generously donated books and supplies to make the Book Pantry possible, in addition to the following individuals and businesses: Learning Express, Child Play Spot, Glenwood School in Short Hills, Lynda Bradley, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Petrucco, Kelly Heinze, Hallie Durand, [words] Bookstore and Ambassadors for Change.

The newest members are:

From Millburn and Short Hills: Meredith Amico, Christine Cofer, Kristi Gerstel, Michelle Keaveney, Jody Miller, Rie Oberliesen, Wana Petrucco, Christine Ploetner, Iris Tan, Lauren Teetsel

From Maplewood and South Orange: Cheryl Darmanin, Roberta Destri, Shanease Guion-Davis, Janette McDermott, Felicia Storey

From Orange, East Orange and West Orange: Tonya Kittur, Laura Perry

Every year, JLOSH members work together to tackle critical needs of women and children in our area. JLOSH provides service to the communities of East Orange, Orange, South Orange, West Orange, Livingston, Maplewood, Millburn, Short Hills and Springfield. Founded in 1913, JLOSH reaches out to women of all races, religions, and national origins. Its purpose is purely educational and charitable. To learn more about JLOSH, visit our website at or find us on Facebook.

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