STAMFORD, Conn. -- There were plenty of smiles and lots of excitement when some 200 children from Stamford public school were able to "shop" for free during the 2016 Back to School Shop held by an all-volunteer community organization.
The children, all hand-picked from disadvantaged families, were able to pick brand new back-to-school outfits and school supplies in a department store-like setting, with the help of volunteer “personal shoppers.”
More than 150 volunteers from the community helped to make the event a success. The day began with a ribbon-cutting ceremony by Meryl Japha and Jane Levene, the two Stamford women who founded and co-chaired the event.
During the event, the mock "shopping center" featured racks and racks of winter coats and school clothes, a large sneaker fitting area, and tables full of gloves and hats (many hand-knitted by Back to School Shop volunteers), backpacks, underwear and socks, as well as school supplies and books.
The children were amazed with the number and variety of items and couldn’t wait to get started. One excited child asked her personal shopper, “Are you sure we don’t have to pay for this?”
The personal shoppers helped the children make their way through the shop, stopping at each area to select a winter coat, try on new school clothes, pick the perfect backpack, and most exciting for many, choose their new pair of sneakers.
A volunteer in the sneaker department said, “I think the kids were more excited about picking a new pair of sneakers than anything else. It felt so good to be able to help them find just the right pair and see the big smiles on their faces!”
While the children were busy “shopping,” their parents and caregivers visited the Japha Family Resource Center where more than a dozen local organizations provided information about health care and important community services.
One mother remarked of her children:“They have been so excited about coming here to go shopping. It means a lot to us.” A ten-year-old boy exclaimed, “This was the best day of my life!”
As the children left the event there were two more treats in store for them. First, a stop at the Ferguson Library bookmobile, where many parents and children filled out applications for library cards. Then, brand new this year, was an ice cream truck with free ice cream for the participating children.