Group Delivers Backpacks to Teaneck Kids

September 3, 2014

TEANECK - A long line snaked its way through the gymnasium, stairs and lobby of Eugene Field School on a sunny afternoon last week, all the way through the front doors and along Broad Street, as hundreds of Teaneck children, parents and guardians waited for free backpacks being handed out at the Board of Education office.

Each backpack was stuffed with pens, pencils, notebooks and other supplies - everything students would need before Sept. 4, the first day of school.

Yusuf, 6, and his father Andrew Elliot check out the new backpacks they received during a giveaway event held last week at the Teaneck Board of Education office.
Darryl Greene, of the Teaneck High School Alumni Association, Qasim Mazhar, Director for Islamic Circle of North America Relief, Councilman Mohammed Hameeduddin and Superintendent Barbara Pinsak at the backpack giveaway on Aug. 28.

The Aug. 28 event and another backpack giveaway held this past Tuesday were the result of a collaboration between several groups who wanted to help local families with the annual costs of getting ready for heading back to school.

Councilman Mohammed Hameeduddin had arranged for ICNA Relief USA, a national organization that helps communities across the country with everything from feeding the hungry to disaster relief, to bring its annual backpack giveaway to Teaneck.

Yusuf, 6, and his father Andrew Elliot check out the new backpacks they received during a giveaway event held last week at the Teaneck Board of Education office.
The Islamic Circle of North America Relief USA and Better Education for Kids donated supply-filled backpacks to students in the Teaneck Public Schools.

At the same time, a group of Teaneck High School alumni were working on a similar project to stuff and give away backpacks, and the organization Better Education for Kids had contacted Superintendent Barbara Pinsak, offering to provide about 1,000 backpacks for Teaneck students.

Instead of having three separate giveaways, the groups decided to work together, said BOE Trustee and Teaneck alumnus Shelley Worrell.

Worrell and other Teaneck alumni, parents and students gathered last week at Eugene Field School to fill the Better Education for Kids backpacks with school supplies. Some were handed out Aug. 28, due to the overwhelming number of students who arrived at the first giveaway organized by ICNA Relief USA. The rest were given away Sept. 2 as originally planned at the Teaneck Public Library.

Last year about 150 backpacks were donated and divided among the elementary schools in town for students who needed them, said Pinsak, but this was the first year backpacks and supplies had been provided on this scale.

"This is huge for us," said Pinsak, looking at the line of students and their families. "I think it's a great example of how agencies and organizations can work together to support children. To have the community and groups support the kids in this way as they go back to school, it's wonderful."

This is the fifth year ICNA Relief USA has provided backpack giveaways, said Qasim Mazhar, the organization's New Jersey director. "We thought this was a unique way to help families. It's a basic need that many people struggle with every year as their children get ready to go back to school," he said.

Hameeduddin knew the organization had distributed backpacks for years in other New Jersey communities and worked to bring the event to Teaneck.

"Any time kids go back to school, it's always rough on the parents. It's expensive, and you can see by the turnout that there is a real need here," he said.

Darryl Greene, THS Class of 1981, worked with Worrell to organize volunteers to stuff the backpacks donated by Better Education for Kids.

Due to the response, Greene said he would like to hold a similar event each summer before the start of the school year.

"I'm very pleased with this turnout, and obviously this is a real need in the community," he said. "These two groups really got together and made this happen, and hopefully next year it will be even bigger."

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