Kearny FMBA & PBA team up to support uniform exchange

Ekladious, second from left, and Barroso, far right, join the Santos family and Sophia and Jennifer, dead center, with some of the laundered uniforms. Photo courtesy of Mina Ekladious

Kearny Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association 18 Treasurer Juan Barroso recently met a Kearny resident, Jennifer Franzese-Paz, who had a brilliant idea to help the community — but she needed some help and support to get it off of the ground.

Having three children enrolled in Kearny Public Schools, Franzese-Paz knew August is usually a financially pressing month being that year after year, she would have to buy five school shirts, pants, sweatshirts, gym clothes and shoes for her three children. That could cost $600 or more, not including school supplies.

At the end of the school year, these school uniforms would just go into a bin for storage being they would no longer fit her growing children in the upcoming school year.

In September 2021, during the COVID-19 Pandemic, Franzese-Paz created a Facebook group called the “Kearny Public Schools Uniform Exchange” (public and charter) where she created a platform for the Kearny Public Schools Uniform Exchange.

Through the Facebook group, she was able to host donation events where she would receive a lot of the school uniforms. After receiving all of the donations, Franzese-Paz and her daughter Sophia would begin washing and folding them on their own and in their home.

Realizing she needed help washing and folding the large amount of donations, the Kearny FMBA and Kearny Policemen’s Benevolent Association Local 21 teamed up to help.

“Juan contacted me and provided me with the details and I told him I would call him back. I then called Jorge Santos, of Super Laundromat Center, and asked if he would be willing to assist by washing and folding the school uniforms. Without hesitation, Jorge told me to drop the uniforms off to his laundromat and that he would do this free of charge,” Mina Ekladious, president of Kearny PBA Local 21, said.

In delight, Franzese-Paz expressed her own gratitude.

“The greatest part about the Kearny Public Schools Uniform Exchange is that this isn’t really a charity for impoverished families. This reaches out to include and involve all members of our community on all levels of the socioeconomic spectrum,” Franzese-Paz said. “It’s an exchange program where no one is required to give but everyone is welcome to receive. A lot of the families receiving this year have also given which is exactly what I had hoped for. People have donated so much and 99% of the uniforms are in excellent condition. I was really blown away by the amount of uniforms donated that still had tags on them. Brand new!”

Ekladious was equally elated.

“By the Kearny FMBA, Kearny PBA and Super Laundromat Center collaborating to support the Kearny exchange, we have collectively assisted Kearny families in cutting the costs of new school uniforms and putting Kearny families in a position to allocate that savings to other basic needs,” the PBA president said. “With inflation at record highs, we understand the importance of reducing the negative impact the economy has had on our community and through these continued partnerships we will do just that.

“On behalf of the Kearny FMBA and Kearny PBA, I would like to recognize and commend Jennifer and Sophia for their willingness to help their community, especially right after a global pandemic. The work they have done thus far is beyond noble and extremely astonishing. The Kearny FMBA and Kearny PBA look forward to continue supporting the exchange and our community.

Ekladious also commended the laundry owners — Jose, Jorge and Daniel Santos.

“ … Not only for their support for the Kearny FMBA and Kearny PBA but their continued, dedicated and distinguished service to our community decade after decade.”

The Santos family recently covered the cost of a bouncy house at National Night Out.

Similarly, “supporting local businesses remains a priority for the FMBA and PBA and we look forward to continuing our great partnerships,” Ekladious said.

For more information on the uniform exchange, contact Franzese-Paz at jlfpaz@kpsuexchange.org.

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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.