The children of Montclair (and more) need backpacks and school supplies. How can you help

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Twins Diana and Gyiliam Jimenez, 5, get to pick their choice of book bags at the 2019 Sentinels Backpack Contest. (ADAM ANIK / POUR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)

By ERIN ROLL
For the Montclair local

It’s a little less than a month before students in Montclair and across the country start returning to school.

For many of them, collecting school supplies and other things they need for the first day can be a challenge. Thus, local and regional groups collect backpacks and fundraise to buy school supplies to help them.

For the past six years, Montclair resident Kimya Nilsen has organized a collection of school supplies for Operation Backpack, a regional project run by Volunteers of America that provides backpacks and school supplies to children and adolescents with families live in shelters for the homeless and domestic violence. survivors in the New York area.

The goal of the Montclair campaign is to raise $ 15,000. As of Monday, August 2, he had raised just over $ 5,650. According to Operation Backpack’s fundraising page, $ 100 can buy supplies for five Kindergarten or Kindergarten students, or four elementary students; $ 200 can buy supplies for four middle or high school students.

Nilsen noted that older students need more supplies, such as graphing calculators, which are more expensive. She said many donors like to choose backpacks with cute designs aimed at young children, but Operation Backpack is in particular need of backpacks that are more suitable for older students.

In the past, Operation Backpack accepted physical donations of school supplies. But with the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization has changed its donation policy. Instead, donors can donate empty backpacks, as well as money Operation Backpack would use to purchase prepackaged school supply kits.

Donors can drop off new backpacks at four locations:

  • The general store at Cornerstone Montclair: 198 Bellevue Ave.
  • Weichert Realtors Upper Montclair: 272 Bellevue Ave.
  • Yarnia: Watchung Plaza, 127 Watchung Avenue.
  • YMCA de Montclair: 25, rue Park

The National Retail Federation expects families with school-aged children across the United States to spend $ 37.1 billion on back-to-school supplies in 2021, with an average of $ 849 per household, a increase from last year’s record of $ 33.9 billion, and $ 59 more per household.

Electronics is expected to be the largest expense category, followed by clothing and footwear.

“The pandemic has forced parents and their school-aged children to adapt quickly to virtual learning, and they have done so with incredible determination and flexibility,” said Matthew Shay, president and chief executive officer of the management of the Retail Federation. said in a statement released on July 19. “We are entering the new school year with plans to return to the classroom, and retailers are ready to help Americans find and buy everything they need to make this transition as smooth as possible.”

In 2020, the Retail Federation said families had to spend record amounts on school supplies, due to the physical closure of school buildings and the need for families to set up home classrooms. Electronics was the biggest expense category that year, with laptops being the most sought after item.

In Montclair schools, students have access to Chromebooks and school-provided hot spots. Students will be allowed to bring their devices home in the event of a COVID-19 school closure.

One of the main giveaways of school supplies in Montclair is the annual drive-up led by Montclair Sentinelles 16-87, an association of police of color from Montclair.

On August 29, the Sentinels will hold their annual distribution of school supplies to Montclair families in Glenfield Park and at the Wally Choice Community Center from noon to 4 p.m. The Sentinels have partnered with local organizations such as Montclair Neighborhood Development Corp. to plan the event. every year.

The gift includes games, activities like face painting, food and snacks.

“Our partnership has provided school supplies to over 1,000 youth in our community over the past few years. We look forward to continuing this community event and, with your help, hope to make it even bigger this year, ”said Detective Anjannette Sanders, Vice President of Sentinels, in a letter sent on July 8.

United Way of Northern New Jersey, which includes Montclair in its coverage area, will run its Tools for School campaign until August 16.

The organization provides support and assistance to families on the threshold of poverty and families known as ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed). For many of these families, obtaining school supplies can be a challenge in a normal school year, but the pandemic has created additional hardships.

“United Way Tools for School offers businesses, groups, clubs, places of worship, families and individuals the opportunity to provide students in need with basic school supplies. said Kiran Handa Gaudioso, CEO of United Way of Northern New Jersey. “After a year of losing learning due to the pandemic, showing up with the tools to start the school year on the right track is more important than ever.”

In 2020, United Way of Northern New Jersey raised $ 190,000 worth of school supplies and distributed them to 43 elementary and middle schools and 16 nonprofit agencies.

As with Operation Backpack, United Way collects backpacks pre-filled with age-appropriate supplies, but donations of individual supplies and new age-appropriate backpacks are also welcome. Personal care items for young children and gift cards that can be used to purchase shoes and clothing are also needed.

the the complete list of supplies is available on the Centraide website, Unitedwaynnj.org. Click on “Take action” then on “Signature readers”.

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