June 16, 2024
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June 16, 2024
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Huge Success for Second Annual Teaneck Clothing Drive

Teaneck—The second annual Greater Teaneck Children’s Clothing Drive was a huge success this summer. Thanks to the incredible volunteers and donors in this amazing community, we were able to help over 60 families clothe their children for the coming year and also send many boxes of clothing to Israel.

The drive is held during the Three Weeks and begins each year with a week of drop-offs and sorting. Members of the community are called upon to donate new and gently worn children’s clothing, which is then separated by gender, sorted by size and folded neatly onto designated tables by the volunteers. This is followed by two weeks of private and semi-private shopping appointments, where people from our community, for whom the expense of purchasing new clothing for their children’s clothing can be a hardship, can sign up anonymously and come “shop” for whatever they need for their families.

The initial idea for a Children’s Clothing Drive came up last year in a conversation among friends about the economy and how so many people were struggling. We knew we couldn’t do anything about tuition, taxes and mortgages, but figured that there had to be another way to help people who were suffering from the economic downturn.

The concept is simple. Kids grow quickly and only wear each size for a short time. People end up with bags and bins of clothing that they no longer use, while others struggle to make ends meet and to buy clothing for their families. The Greater Teaneck Children’s Clothing Drive was initiated to provide clothing for families in need while also presenting an outlet for those looking to clear out their homes. It is a win/win!

To begin, we contacted rabbis, principals, teachers and charitable organizations and publicized the event so that people who could benefit from the clothing would know about the drive. Next we advertised the event in Teaneck and the surrounding areas, holding our breath in hopes that we would collect enough clothing to fill the need.

At our first meeting, we even discussed how we would have to limit the amount of clothing people take so that there would be enough for everyone who came to shop. That worry fell away when we saw the hundreds upon hundreds of bags of gently worn and new clothing donated by people in our community. We also received new clothing donations from local stores including Brooklyn’s and Carly’s Craze. There was more than enough for everyone to take whatever they need and the remaining clothing is being sent to Israel through Yad Leah.

A venture like this requires scores of volunteers to do hours of organizing and folding, as well as to supervise the “shopping” hours. The dedication of members of our community both this year and last was astounding. Friends came to support the cause, while others saw our ads on Teaneckshuls, their shul announcements or in the Jewish Link and just showed up to help. Parents brought older children who schlepped tables, unpacked bags and folded for hours!

A chance stop at a local boutique, where we mentioned the clothing drive turned into a huge clothing donation! As we loaded hundreds of new clothing items, valued at thousands of dollars into our cars, we kept thanking donor Susan Abrams, proprietor of Brooklyn’s on West Englewood Avenue in Teaneck for her generous donation. She turned to us and said: “We’re so glad that you mentioned your chesed endeavor when in our store last month. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to partner with you as you gave of your time and sensitivity to our local community. The community is our focus; we greatly appreciate the patronage we receive from them so our giving back is a segment of our commitment.”

As we looked around the room after a week of organizing tables and sorting and folding clothing, we couldn’t help but feel the excitement as the “shopping” weeks were about to begin. Huge tables of beautiful gently worn clothing ranging in size from infant to 14+ lined the PAC room at RYNJ. But the piece de résistance was the racks and racks of brand new women’s and girls’ clothing. Not only would we be able to clothe the many families in need that benefit from the clothing drive, we were going to be able to offer them new clothing as well!

“Thank you – I don’t know how I would have gotten through this year without the clothing from the clothing drive.” We heard and re-heard this many times. 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. Another woman must have said thank you 50 times in the hour that she shopped.

Dr. Alissa Zenack, a local pediatrician who found out about the drive from Teaneckshuls, sent some of her patients both this year and last and even came herself to help a few of them shop. A local resident also wrote us “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. Thanks! Tikzu l’mitzvos!”

It was incredible to be able to tell people that they can take as much as they want, and felt great to watch people leave with bags of clothing in their cars and smiles on their faces.

This year RYNJ graciously opened their doors to us and allowed us to hold the clothing drive there. Israel Weisel was especially helpful in securing the space for us and even came late to lock up the building so that we could offer evening shopping hours to working mothers.

Although the clothing drive is over for this year, if you or anyone you know could benefit from the clothing drive, please email childrensclothingdrive_gmail.com to be put on our distribution list for next year’s drive. All information is kept confidential.

This year’s clothing drive was dedicated in memory of Esther Holzer Semmelman. Esther was an incredible inspiration in so many ways, but particularly for her acts of chessed. She never made a shopping trip without making a donation at the register to Tomchei Shabbat and she always bought diapers and wipes to drop off at Tomchei Shabbat – saying “If people can’t afford food, they probably need diapers too.” While many of us send old clothing to Israel, she only sent the best – making several shopping trips to buy clothing, winter coats and hats to send to the children in Israel. In the zichut of this mitzvah, may her neshama have an aliyah.

By Chana Holzer Shields and Dalia Stelzer

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