JACKSON – Popular online shopping apps are propelling an increase in donations to an annual back-to-school supplies drive for Jackson students.
“We used to just ask for donations from the community, I would post what we needed. But this is the first year I did an Amazon wish list and it’s been like a lifesaver,” said Lauren Barinas, president of the MOMS Club of Jackson, which sponsors the school supplies drive with the township’s food pantry.
“I thought, ‘I’m going to do it and see what happens’ and the first day I was overwhelmed by how much we got,” she said. “We have a list of items we like to pack the bookbags with that is posted on the Amazon wish list. I come home every day and there are packages.”
MOMS stands for MOMS Offering Moms Support and Barinas said the club is hyper-local.
“The backpack drive has been going on for (many years). We work with the Jackson Women of Today food pantry and (pantry director) Joy Rende lets me know what she needs. Last year we split it up between the elementary schools, the middle schools and the high schools.
“My goal is to give her 50 high school backpacks filled with school supplies. She said she really didn’t need many for middle school so I think we are only doing 10 for middle school. This year she requested extra high school backpacks because they ran out last year.”
A list of supplies that are needed to fill the backpacks is posted at http://momsclubofjackson.weebly.com/
Tax deductible monetary donations can also be made, payable to the MOMS Club of Jackson, P.O. Box 47, Jackson, NJ 08527.
Barinas said the effort benefits from donations from the community and from the club’s support.
“As a club we also buy some things and donate ourselves, but we rely heavily on donations because typically we pack over 100 backpacks. Last year we did 125,” she said.
According to Barinas, each backpack that is provided to a child is filled with grade-appropriate supplies.
For example, a high school backpack may include a binder, notebook, folders, highlighters,
different colored pens, note cards and filler paper for the binder.
Barinas said the food pantry’s operators let people know the backpack drive is taking place and ask individuals who need assistance how many children they have and whether the youngsters are boys or girls. The information is passed on to the MOMS Club.
“For elementary school we try to get them cute little backpacks with characters on them or fun designs,” she said. “The one-color backpacks we give to the high-schoolers.”
This year, Rende let the MOMS Club members know there is a greater need for backpacks and supplies for high school students.
Packing the backpacks with supplies is an event that involves the club members and their children.
“We will be packing the backpacks on Aug.19 and everybody is coming to my house,” Barinas said. “We have a big group that comes out, all the moms and their kids, so we get the kids involved, they help pack them. We bag them up by grade level.”
Barinas said the effort helps families that may be struggling to provide school supplies to their children.
“It’s a big expense, so just to get the school year started for the kids, it’s a relief for some of the parents not having to worry about buying (school supplies),” she said.
The backpacks are available to any students in the township, she said.
“It’s all of Jackson, so regardless of what school they go to in Jackson they can go to the food pantry and get a backpack,” she said.
Regarding the MOMS Club, Barinas said the club members participate in several service projects. The moms’ volunteer efforts serve another purpose as well: setting an example for their children.
“It shows (the children) not everybody is as well off as they are,” Barinas explained. “They are learning from the experience, they are learning to give back to the community and it gives them a sense of pride that they are helping others.”
The Jackson MOMS Club currently has 45 members and has heard from more people who have expressed an interest in joining, Barinas said.
The school supplies drive will remain ongoing until Aug. 18. The backpacks will be put together on Aug. 19.
“Our aim is to make sure no kid goes without … and that moms and dads who are struggling to put food on the table don’t have to decide, ‘Do I feed my family tonight or do I buy school supplies?’
“That should not be any parent’s concern. It truly amazed me how all of the items on the backpack wish list got bought up in abundance. I only asked for two sets of backpacks, 40, and I have 96 coming to my house,” she said.
Founded in 1983, nationally the MOMS Club has more than 1,000 chapters and more than 75,000 members.
Send an email to email@example.com for membership information.
For more information about the club, visit http://momsclubofjackson.weebly.com/