This morning I volunteered at an annual event to help economically disadvantaged kids get new clothes and school supplies.
The Back 2 School Store is run by the Essex County Section of the National Council of Jewish Women— a formidable bunch of dames who make life better for women and children in Northern New Jersey.
I helped three adorable 5-year-olds– Shirley, Imani, and Izquiel– stuff their bags with a snazzy new outfits plus coats, hats and gloves, and a backpack teeming with personal care products, notebooks, markers and everything they’ll need for kindergarten in the fall.
I set aside this August Sunday every year because I know how great it feels to watch the kids embrace their experience. As the mom of three boys, it’s also a thrill to share my enthusiasm for shopping with an exuberant girl.
Another useful aspect of the event is the family resource center set up for the caregivers. Representatives from at least 20 agencies provide services and information on important wellness and social issues to people who might not otherwise have access. There were medical professionals doing glucose and eye tests, and leaflets on nutrition, lead poisoning and choking.
All reminders of how lucky I am to be able to take my kids to get new clothes, shoes, and school supplies…and regular medical checkups when they need them.
I’ve volunteered for this program since it launched 5 years ago so I know that when I first meet the kids to help them shop, they’re anxious and fearful. Who wants to leave your parent and walk around with a strange grown-up in an unfamiliar place?
But, without exception, every time they leave the store, they’re beaming.
Look at these faces!
They love their new stuff and the opportunity to choose everything themselves, as caregivers are not permitted in the store. The girls often pick every single pink item available– and the boys put outfits together with no regard for matching whatsoever. The shoppers are trained to facilitate shopping, and keep our big mouths shut so the kids have complete autonomy.
But it’s so not about the clothes.
The excitement of a shopping spree and the self-esteem they feel when they walk out is priceless.
If you want more info on all the great work NCJW does, check out their website at http://www.ncjwessex.org/