|Volunteers Elana Rosenbluth, Dalia Stelzer, Leba Shaffer, Chana Shields, Laurie Kilimnick, and some of the fifth- to eighth-graders who volunteered to sort and fold clothing.|
The second annual Greater Teaneck Children’s Clothing Drive provided about 65 area families with new or gently used outfits for their kids – for free.
Teaneck moms Chana Holzer Shields and Dalia Stelzer dreamed up the idea during a casual conversation last year.
“Dalia and I were talking about how many people are in a difficult financial situation and worried about paying day school tuition, so how do they even shop for their kids?” Shields recalled.
“We can’t do anything about tuition, but maybe we could do a clothing drive,” she said. “We weren’t even sure if people would come, but we figured in the worst-case scenario we would send the stuff to Israel.
“Well, the response was incredible.”
The two got donations by contacting “every tzedakah organization, rabbis, principals, friends – anyone we thought would know people in need,” Shields said.
Their priority was to embarrass no one, and so they handled distribution by appointment only. Parents could book a time slot on a Google spreadsheet – using only initials, if they preferred – and one volunteer was assigned to each appointment, to be as discreet as possible.
A second spreadsheet allowed volunteers – many of them kids – to sign up for the labor-intensive tasks of unbagging, sorting, and displaying the donated clothing attractively. The sizes ranged from infant to 14+, and it was laid out on tables in a large room at the Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey in River Edge. This process ran from June 24 to July 1. Two weeks of private and semi-private shopping appointments followed.
Shields said that most of the families were from Bergen County; others came from Rockland and other nearby regions.
Two Teaneck clothing retailers, Carly’s Craze and Brooklyn’s, donated brand-new clothing to the drive.
Leftover items, except shoes and unusable garments, will be shipped to needy Israeli families through the organization Yad Leah, whose U.S. representative in Passaic has a warehouse for collections. Planet Aid, a nonprofit that collects and sells donated clothing and shoes to support sustainable development in impoverished communities around the world, will pick up anything ripped, stained, or otherwise unusable. Some of the postage costs were defrayed by voluntary donations from the parents who came to gather clothing for their children.
“This year we wondered if we’d have to limit the amount people could take, say three bags per person, but when we saw what came in we decided they could take whatever they wanted,” Shields said.
Dr. Alissa Zenack, a local pediatrician who found out about the drive from the Teaneckshuls Yahoo group, recommended the opportunity to some of her patients both this year and last, and even came herself to help a few of them shop, Shields reported.
Another local resident wrote a thank-you note afterward, explaining, “I am a foster parent and keeping enough clothing on hand for the various ages and genders of kids who come through my doors is a challenge financially.”
“A little girl was shopping with a huge smile on her face, picking out Shabbat dresses for herself as well as some ‘new’ school clothes,” Shields said. “Another woman must have said ‘thank you’ 50 times in the hour that she shopped.”
Susan Abrams, the owner of Brooklyn’s, is donating extra items, which will be sold below cost in a private home in the next couple of weeks. Proceeds will be used to help defray costs of shipping to Israel for Yad Leah. (Email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.)
“Anyone who missed the drive this year should email us to be on our distribution list for next year,” Shields said.