July 10, 2024
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Third Annual Teaneck Children’s Clothing Drive – Another Huge Success!

Teaneck—Hundreds of pounds of clothing were collected at Congregation Keter Torah during the last two weeks of July for the community’s third annual Children’s Clothing Drive. Families throughout Bergen County donated good quality clothing for their needy neighbors, who then came to the synagogue to take whatever they needed for their children, free of charge. The remaining clothing was sent to disadvantaged people in Israel.

The charity effort is driven by Teaneck locals Chana Shields and Dalia Stelzer, who have spearheaded it for the past two years. “The idea was initiated a few years ago when the economy took a turn for the worse. 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 they no longer use, while others struggle to make ends meet 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!” says Shields.

While the two women coordinate all the logistics, Shields noted that the drive “is only as successful as its donors and volunteers.”

Stelzer said she is amazed by the generosity of the broader Teaneck community. “Every year Chana (Shields) and I sit there on Day One wondering how much clothing we will actually get,” she said. “We wonder if people still have enough to give after donating so much the previous year—and we are always pleasantly surprised.”

Through advertising in synagogue and school bulletins and on TeaneckShuls, the organizers requested good quality clothing for both boys and girls in sizes infant through teenager. Congregation Keter Torah offered its ballroom for use as the warehouse for the drive.

Due to the overwhelming donations, the organizers requested volunteers to help set up the clothing for shoppers. They sent out a spreadsheet through TeaneckShuls and their own private contact lists.

“On the first day we sent out a request for help, and we immediately filled nearly all of the time slots,” Stelzer said. “It was truly amazing.”

Volunteers were also asked to sign up for time slots during the shopping period, both to help shoppers find the items they needed and also to keep the piles neat.

A second spreadsheet was sent out to needy families through local area gemachs, Project Ezrah, Project Sarah, Tomchei Shabbos, and local rabbis. They could sign up for a shopping slot using just their initials, for the sake of their privacy. Shoppers could request a private session, in which no one else would be in the synagogue ballroom except their volunteer “personal shopper,” or they could have a semi-private session with one or two others present. According to Stelzer, more than 100 families signed up to shop, and came from the Teaneck-Bergenfield-New Milford area, as well as Passaic, Monsey, Queens, Lakewood, and parts of Long Island.

Stelzer noted that many people who sign up to shop also volunteer to help set up. “It’s great for us, and for them,” she said. “They are so helpful and thankful to be able to give as well as to take.”

A shopper who wished to remain anonymous agreed with Stelzer. She said this is the second year she has participated in the clothing drive, both as a shopper and as a volunteer. She sorts and folds the clothing as it comes in. “The clothing is beautiful, with many new things still with tags on,” she said. “The words that come to mind are ‘Mi K’Amcha Yisroel’—our community is so generous.” She gathered clothing for all seasons for her son. “Without this, I’m not sure where I would have been able to get things for him,” she said.

Another shopper, Naomi, shared similar sentiments. “Words cannot express my gratitude to the organizers and donors,” she said. “Walking into the ballroom, it feels like you’ve just won the million dollar lottery.” Naomi said she feels the burden of buying “even basic items like shirts, pants, and pajamas” because costs add up so quickly. “You have no idea how much you are helping a fellow Jew,” she explained.

The volunteers said they, too, were moved by the experience, and were glad to be a part of the clothing drive. Esti Kaminetzky, a Teaneck resident, helped a woman outfit her four children with clothing for the year. After the woman finished shopping, she gave Kaminetzky a hug and told her she was so grateful. “It was really special to see how appreciative she was,” Kaminetzky said.

Another Teaneck volunteer, Rebecca Barkai, said she helped a group of six shoppers and she gained a lot from the experience. “Honestly, I don’t know who felt happier, them (the shoppers), or me!” she said. “I thoroughly enjoy seeing people appreciate the kindness of others.”

While the organizers cannot estimate an exact quantity donated to needy families, Stelzer said more than 300 large garbage bags of clothing were given away.

Shields and Stelzer stressed that the success of the drive is due to the donors and the volunteers, and especially to Howard Gruenspecht, executive director of Congregation Keter Torah, and Kenny Yager of Five Star Caterers for the use of the Keter Torah ballroom. Local stores also donated brand-new clothing to the drive, including Carly’s Craze and Michelle Judith Boutique.

After the local clothing drive was completed, Shields, Stelzer, and local volunteers packed up the remaining clothing—nearly another 300 large garbage bags—and sent it to Israel through a charity called Yad Leah. This organization collects clothing from the United States and brings it to Israel to sell at very low cost to low-income families. They provide clothing to hundreds of families in more than 30 communities throughout Israel. To help defray the cost of shipping (each box of clothing costs $18 to send to Israel), Shields and Stelzer asked for donations to Yad Leah].

“Our community is so wonderful,” Stelzer said. “People truly give of themselves in every way, and I feel very fortunate to live here.”

With God’s help they hope to have another clothing drive next summer. If you are not on the email distribution list and want to be involved next summer to volunteer, donate and/or shop, please send an email to [email protected]

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