By Kelly Nicholaides
for Montclair Local
In between basketball games, bean bag tosses, prizes, cotton candy, hot dogs and hamburgers, Montclair children picked out school backpacks at Glenfield Park on Aug. 19.
Every year as summer winds down, Montclair community groups pool their resources to ensure that no student lacks school supplies. Greeting a steady stream of children and their families, volunteers handed out backpacks and other back-to-school staples.
“What grade are you going into? What color backpack do you like? Have a great year,” said volunteer Julie Brewer of Delta Sigma Theta sorority of the Montclair Alumni chapter.
Organizer and retired Montclair police lieutenant Kim Nelson-Edwards started the annual school supplies giveaway event through the Sentinels—a group of minority Montclair law enforcement officers 11 years ago.
“We started out at an arcade and the effort just grew into something bigger. I was a school resource officer at the time. Students would come into my office and ask me for a pen, pencil or notebook paper. They were running out of supplies in January,” Nelson-Edwards said.
According to a survey on Deloitte, an audit research company, parents will spend an average of $510 on back-to-school clothing and supplies per a child this year.
The annual event now also includes books, music, games, food and haircuts—thanks to other civic groups pitching in, including the Police Athletic League, MNDC, Brother to Brother, PBA, Montclair Education Association, NAACP, Fraternal Order of Police.
A total of $3,500 was raised for this year’s event. Last year, 592 backpacks were distributed. This year, 220 families pre-registered online and roughly 300 more showed up the day of the event to receive the supplies.
After choosing their backpack, students picked out a new, grade-level appropriate book that suited their unique interests.
“It’s great for the kids to see what the community is doing to connect everyone,” said Elaine Matthews. Her son, Carter Nicholas, 6, picked out a “Curious George” book.
“The Maze Runner” is a top read for middle schoolers.
“It seems long, but it’s not a hard read. The vocabulary is simple, and it’s a fast-paced adventure story,” said Nola Romano, Montclair Public Library representative.
Tenth grader Najia Chislum perused the book collection. “It’s a fun event, shows that Montclair cares and tries to help kids,” she said.
Starting off a new school year with a haircut is a rite of passage. Coby’s Styling Salon in Bloomfield provided custom cuts like high top fade, dark Caesar and wavelength. A bevy of buzzers hummed as barbers perfected coifs with sharp edges and details.
Bringing her two sons and nephew to the event, Jasmine Morrison said the children were excited to get back to school.
“It’s amazing, well-planned, organized, and beneficial,” Morrison said.
Montclair resident Myrna Poole said the school supply event helps fill the recommended list of supplies that teachers give parents before school starts. Her next challenge is to get her son Michael, 10, and daughter Miamadison, 6, back into a school routine.
“Scheduling is going to be the hardest part. They’re used to staying up late now, so it’s time to get them back into a routine that is conducive for getting ready for school. Summer goes fast,” Poole said.