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

By ERIN ROLL
For the Montclair Local

It’s just under a month before students in Montclair and across the country begin to return to school.

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

Montclair resident Kimya Nilsen has been organizing a local school supply drive for six years for Operation Backpack, a regional project run by Volunteers of America that provides backpacks and school supplies to children and teens whose families live in homeless shelters and domestic violence. survivors in the New York area.

The objective of the Montclair collection 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 school students; $200 can buy supplies for four middle or high school students.

Nilsen noted that older students need more supplies, like graphing calculators, which are more expensive. She said many donors like to choose backpacks with cute designs aimed at younger children, but Operation Backpack especially needs 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 changed its donation policy. Instead, donors can donate empty backpacks, along with money that Operation Backpack would use to purchase prepackaged school supply kits.

Donors can drop off new backpacks in four places:

  • Cornerstone Montclair General Store: 198 Bellevue Ave.
  • Weichert Realtors Upper Montclair: 272 Bellevue Ave.
  • Yarnia: Watchung Plaza, 127 Watchung Ave.
  • Montclair YMCA: 25 Park St.

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

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

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

In 2020, the Retail Federation said families were having 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 largest spending category that year, with laptops being the most sought-after item.

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

One of the main giveaways of school supplies to Montclair is the annual campaign run by the Montclair Sentinels 16-87, an association of colored Montclair police officers.

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

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

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

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

The organization provides aid and assistance to poor families and families known as ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed). For many of these families, shopping for school supplies can be a challenge during a normal school year, but the pandemic has created additional challenges.

“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 learning loss 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 in school supplies and distributed them to 43 elementary and middle schools and 16 nonprofits.

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 buy shoes and clothes are also needed.

the the complete list of supplies is available on the Centraide website, unitedwaynnj.org. Click on “Take Action” and then on “Signature Drives”.


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