Tools for School continues their efforts during the coronavirus pandemic

Volunteers+gather+in+front+of+the+backpacks+that+were+packed+during+last+years+event.+

Courtesy of Tools for School's Facebook

Volunteers gather in front of the backpacks that were packed during last years event.

Like every year, the Tools for School packing event takes place around the South Jersey community and welcomes community volunteers to help pack book bags full of school supplies for many students in the Delaware Valley area who can’t afford to buy their own.

Many of these volunteers are students at Cherry Hill High School East, as the founder of the organization is East alum, Lily Checkoff (‘18) and the current President of Tools for School is Lily’s sister, Montana Checkoff (‘21). Additionally, a large portion of the Teen and Executive Boards — a group of passionate young leaders who handle all fundraising, marketing and programming aspects of the teen led organization— have walked the halls of East before as students.

After a long year of raising money for the materials that will be provided in the book bags, the Tools for School team and local volunteers meet and put everything together. In previous years, over a thousand backpacks have been donated to students in need. With the help of donations, backpack benefactors, and the community’s support, in 2019, Tools for School packed over 1,600 bags.

Even with a global pandemic, Tools for School will not stop until their donations are fulfilled and school children in areas of Eastern Pennsylvania, Camden, South Jersey, Northern Delaware and schools along the Jersey Shore get the backpacks provided by the teen-organized, philanthropic organization. This year, using proper coronavirus social distancing standards and the requirements of masks, Tools for School plans to pack over 2,500 bags for children in need.

Dedicated to the cause, Checkoff and the Executive Board made the decision to keep the packing event scheduled for late August and implement new procedures. This year, masked-volunteers will only be able to come in groups of 15 people or less to keep enough room for proper social distancing.

“We wanted to make sure that there was some positive light going on in our community with everything going on around us. Tools for School offers a chance for kids to do great things for other kids and we wanted to make sure that this message was still [displayed]” said Montana Checkoff.

To make sure there is enough time for all the backpacks and that everyone is able to come and help out, there will be two packing events located not too far from Cherry Hill. On August 23, volunteers can take a quick trip to the beach before or after helping out at the Margate City, New Jersey packing event. On August 26, Tools for School will hold their second packing event in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

“We also wanted to make sure that families and students could get school supplies this year as many families are being affected by the pandemic and being put in different financial situations” said Checkoff.

The entire process is such an incredible experience for all involved who want to make a difference. First, Tools for School fundraises through various methods and then utilizes that money to order the school supplies through a wholesale distributor for the best price in order to maximize every dollar raised. The organization then talks to schools that will be receiving the backpacks to figure out which supplies are most important to their students. Then, the “packing day” is organized during the summer. People from the community come out to help pack pens, pencils, glue sticks, binders, folders, and more into an organized, ready-to-use backpack for students in neighboring districts who can’t afford them. The back packs then go to students in need and donations are distributed.

Follow along on the Eastside Instagram on August 23 as Max takes over from the Tools For School-Margate packing event.