Here come the most painful five words that we regularly write in this newspaper: It’s back to school season.
Yes, we’re two weeks into the second full month of summer — or three weeks until Labor Day. Which means that people who plan ahead are thinking about school.
Among such people who plan ahead is Beth Figman, director of volunteer services at the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey. She has been planning a back-to-school event that will take place at the federation’s Paramus offices on Tuesday, August 16, beginning at 10 a.m.
The event is “Supplies for Success” and its goal is to prepare a thousand backpacks filled with school supplies for disadvantaged children in North Jersey.
“We probably will have about a hundred people coming to help pack,” Ms. Figman said. That’s how many came last year, when the federation prepared 550 backpacks.
“This has grown exponentially,” she said. “People seem to love the idea of it.”
The backpacks will be distributed through 17 different schools and organizations, including the nine Hackensack and Teaneck schools where the federation sends its Bergen Reads volunteers, the area’s Jewish family service agencies, local food banks, and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Paterson.
It costs $18 to sponsor a backpack, Ms. Figman said. There have been individual and corporate sponsors.
Representatives of some of the recipient agencies will be at the backpack-packing event on Tuesday.
“It’s really heart wrenching when you hear someone say that a mom has to decide between getting the groceries she needs that week and getting school supplies,” she said. “It’s an issue in northern New Jersey that people aren’t aware of.”
Broader issues of poverty and school funding are often contentious. “People easily get their head around school supplies,” Ms. Figman said. “It’s a tangible thing.”
Helping the needy students “is the Jewish value of tikun olam,” she added.
The actual ordering of supplies is being handled in conjunction with the UJA-Federation of New York, which has been running a similar drive for years. The Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey orders the same supplies from the same outlet in Florida, and some additional goods — among them socks and pens — being are donated by local businesses.