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Newark School Children Receive Backpacks at North Ward Center’s Family Success Center

backpackgiveaway2011-600Alisha Gonzalez was like a lot of the Newark parents who came to claim free backpacks and school supplies for her children at The North Ward Center's Family Success Center.

"I'm on a fixed income. It was hard for me to get their uniforms, let alone backpacks and supplies," said the North Ward resident who came with her three children, two of whom attend Rafael Hernandez and a third who is attending a preschool. "It helps out more than people think."

In the span of a few hours, the staff of the Family Success Center handed out nearly 200 backpacks filled with grade appropriate school supplies for Newark school children. Bags for younger children included crayons and colored pencils while older children received notebooks, rulers and calculators.

"We did research to make sure the children had everything they needed for a successful school year," said Vanessa Bohler, the director of the Family Success Center. "For many parents, getting their children fully prepared for the first day of school is financially difficult."

Raquel C., whose 8-year old son is a second grader at Robert Treat Academy, said not having to worry about buying school supplies was a relief.

"Right now I don't have a job and this helped big time," Raquel said. "The book bag alone is $19. That might not seem like much, but when you don't have $20, it's a huge help."

The North Ward Center contributed money to purchase the backpacks and supplies. In addition, supplies and donations came from the Christ Church in Montclair, Vintage Strategies, and Firmenich, a Swiss family-owned perfume and flavor company with operations in Newark. Volunteers from Air BP in Linden, Lily of the Valley Christian Church in Orange and the Division of Youth & Family Services helped the staff prepare backpacks for distribution.

Gloria Nieves, who is on the Family Success Center's board and a member of the choir at Christ Church in Montclair, said she helped connect the two organizations. Members of the church's arts and dance ministry donated 83 backpacks and $450.

"I see it as building bridges between the church and residents in Newark," said Nieves, a North Ward resident.

The Family Success Center also distributed 52 backpacks filled with supplies to residents of Stephen Crane Village and an additional 38 to parishioners of the New Psalmist Worship Center on Lyons Avenue.

Stephen N. Adubato, the founder of The North Ward Center, said it's important that children come to school prepared.

"As an institution, we educate more than 1,200 children every day, so we know firsthand the importance of having children come to school feeling like they have everything they need," Adubato said.

Adrianne Davis, the executive director of The North Ward Center, thanked those who contributed to the effort.

"This wouldn't be possible without the generosity of all those who donated money or supplies," Davis said.

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