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NCJW Back to School Store offers new clothing, school supplies to underprivileged kids

National Council of Jewish Women’s Back to School Store will impact 200 children living in poverty in the Kansas City metro area, primarily from Jackson County, Mo., and Johnson County, Kan.

Through grants and member donations, NCJW is offering a Back to School day for children from kindergarten through fifth grade to offer them brand new clothing and school supplies. Children who are either receiving a reduced rate lunch or a free lunch will be screened by social service agencies who contact their clients. Parents then fill out a form from NCJW, not only giving their permission, but providing information about clothing sizes, the grade their child is entering, what the child is most looking forward to, whether the individual has any issues like English or getting around the store, etc.

“This is actually a program that started in Green Bay, Wisconsin, through the National Council many years ago,” said Carla Oppenheimer, president of the Greater Kansas City Section and chairperson of the program.

With his or her own personal shopper, students will shop for clothing, including coats, T-shirts, pants, shoes, shirts, underwear, socks, gloves, and all required school supplies plus a backpack, on Sunday, July 27, at Congregation Ohev Sholom, which has donated its facility for this purpose.

“The goal of this program is to get children excited about the first day of school and providing all these new things,” Oppenheimer explained. “So you’ve got the clothing and the school supply element; many of these kids have never had all these new items. It’s either hand-me-downs or just what they’re given.

“So the goal is to get them all these new things to be excited on the first day of school so they will be successful in school all year. That’s the thinking.

“The other cool part of this program is that each child is given a time to arrive at the store, a volunteer from National Council will meet them as their personal shopper and they take them around to pick out the items,” continued Oppenheimer.

The children will get to choose the color and the style of all the clothing and shoes.

“You don’t want a parent or guardian influencing them and saying well you should get this, it’s for the child to do and the child to get excited about and that’s what makes this such an amazing program; it gives the child the choice to pick the items. It’s a really cool concept,” Oppenheimer said. “We’re very excited and hopefully this will continue. Our members have been incredibly supportive, not only with their money but with their time to make this successful.”

Oppenheimer said the local NCJW learned about the program from St. Louis, which is in its 14th year. “We thought it was just a dynamite program and one that could really be used here for the children in the metro area.”

“I know you’ve read and seen the statistics of how many kids drop out,” Oppenheimer said. “Part of it is they look around and see these other kids who have all this new stuff and they’re like wow that would be so cool and then if they are dressed to the nines on their first day and have all this new stuff that they picked out, it gives them the ownership that will hopefully lead to success. So that’s what we’re looking to do.”

NCJW members have contributed both monetarily and by shopping, either online or in stores. However you don’t have to be a member to contribute.

“This is our first year and we want this to continue,” Oppenheimer said. “We want to do this every year as Green Bay and St. Louis have, and we would love the community’s support, either with volunteering or with donations — but they have to be brand new.”

To obtain a list of what items are still needed, contact NCJW at 913-648-0747 (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or Oppenheimer at 913-302-7734 (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).