CEDAR KNOLLS, NJ - United Way of Northern New Jersey is hosting its annual Tools for School drive which allows students to start the new school year with the basic school supplies.

The drive will benefit more than 11,000 elementary and middle school children of ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) and families in poverty throughout the northern New Jersey region.

United Way Tools for School seeks to lessen the strain on already strapped household budgets. Last year, on average, families with children in K-12 in the United States spent $98 on school supplies such as backpacks, notebooks and pencils, according to the National Retail Federation. That does not include electronics, clothing and accessories.

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“For ALICE families who are already living paycheck to paycheck, spending money on school supplies is not an option,” United Way Chief Operating Officer Kiran Handa Gaudioso said. “By uniting as a community, we can help ease the financial struggle of these hardworking families and give students the basics to start the school year on the right track.”

On Friday, August 24, from 9 to 11:30 a.m., donations can be dropped off at the United Way office, 222 Ridgedale Avenue, in Cedar Knolls. 

Supplies being collected include: backpacks, lunch boxes, binders, three-ring notebooks, book covers, filler paper, pocket folders, composition and spiral notebooks, index cards, calculators, pencils, pencil cases, pencil sharpeners, erasers, pens, highlighters, crayons, markers, colored pencils, construction paper, glue, tape, rulers, dry erase markers, and scissors. In addition, school nurses have asked for personal care items such as toothbrushes, deodorant, Band-Aids, and kindergarten and first grade-aged children’s underwear and socks. Gift cards that can be used to purchase items such as shoes and clothing are also appreciated. 

Last year, with the help of 250 volunteers, supplies valued at $86,000 were collected and distributed to 63 elementary and middle schools and 16 nonprofit agencies throughout the northern New Jersey region, said the United Way.

For more information about making donations, holding a United Way Tools for School drive, or to volunteer with sorting supplies, visitwww.UnitedWayNNJ.org/ToolsforSchool, email Lisa.Galonardo@UnitedWayNNJ.org or call 973.993.1160, x503.