Stamford school turns into ‘pop-up department store' for free back-to-school clothes and supplies for disadvantaged

Stamford school turns into ‘pop-up department store' for free back-to-school clothes and supplies for disadvantaged

Stamford Advocate, July 28, 2016

By Nelson Oliveira

STAMFORD — One of the city’s elementary schools is temporarily turning into a department store with shelves that will be stocked with clothes, sneakers, school supplies, books and other items. But there will be no price tags.

The annual Back to School Shop, a community event created to provide free school clothes and supplies to economically disadvantaged elementary school children, returns for a second year this Sunday.

More than 200 students, from kindergarten to fifth grade, will join the event from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Davenport Ridge Elementary School gymnasium. At last year’s inaugural program, about 125 children participated.

With the help of volunteer “personal shoppers,” each child will be escorted throughout the “pop-up store” to select a brand new outfit, including pants, a shirt, socks, sneakers, underwear, a winter jacket, gloves and a hat. They will also get a new backpack, which they fill with school supplies, books and personal care items.

All students were pre-registered and the event is closed to the public. Social workers previously identified the neediest children at Stamford Public Schools earlier this year.

The Back to School Shop is an all-volunteer organization founded with the goal of exciting every child about going back to school. “It’s important to go back to school filling confident,” said Charlesanna Ecker, one of the volunteers. “But it’s hard to do that you when don’t have school supplies.”

Half of students in need back to top

More than half of Stamford students are considered economically disadvantaged, according to the organization.

“A lot of us have great memories of when we went to school,” Ecker said. “We want them to have the same opportunity, feel excited and ultimately have a good school year.”

Volunteers purchase all of the clothing and supplies with funds raised from individuals, foundations and other groups. The event is a partnership with Stamford Public Schools and the United Jewish Federation of Greater Stamford, New Canaan and Darien.

Back to School Shop will also have an on-site family resource center for parents and guardians to learn about community groups and meet with representatives from more than a dozen participating organizations including the Child Guidance Center of Southern Connecticut, Domus Kids, the city’s Department of Health and Human Services, Hanna & Mazer Dental Group, Ferguson Library, Connecticut Legal Services and the Stamford Fire Department.