Woodhaven backpack school supply giveaway

Tony Subraj, vice president of Zara Realty, takes a photo with a student during the back-to-school giveaway outside the Tabernacle of Emmanuel Full Gospel Assemblies.
Zara Charitable Foundation

As the estimated cost of families to outfit their children with clothing and supplies for K-12 back-to-school has risen 7.5 percent since last year, several Queens businesses, philanthropic and faith-based groups have come together to give away new backpacks and needed school supplies for 300 Kindergarten to Fifth Graders from the Woodhaven to Jamaica area.

The event took place at the Tabernacle of Emmanuel Full Gospel Assemblies through the generosity of the Zara Charitable Foundation and The George Subraj Family Foundation.

Over many years, Zara Realty and its leader’s family foundation have invested heavily in supporting the educational and preparedness needs of children in the communities where its residential buildings are located.

“The George Subraj Family Foundation and the Zara Foundation want to give children in this community a leg up on a competitive year of learning,” said Tony Subraj, the Guyanese-born vice president of Zara Realty.

“For students, the past year has been about remote classes and learning via computer,” he added. “Some children will now be heading back to the classroom, anxious about a school environment they have not experienced in 18-months since the pandemic began.

“This backpack giveaway allows us to provide these amazing children some of the tools to help them succeed and return confident and ready to learn,” Subraj continued.

According to the National Retail Survey (NRF), 43 percent of all back-to-class shoppers will use government stimulus funds to purchase items for the upcoming school year, and that back-to-school shoppers plan to spend $21 more on average on electronics this year, compared with 2020, and $19 more on clothing.

Amir Sobhraj, financial comptroller of Zara Realty, hands a backpack to a student at the back-to-school giveaway. Zara Charitable Foundation

“Young Heir’s Ministry is the children’s church of the Tabernacle of Emmanuel Full Gospel Assemblies,” said Pastor Sharon Yhap-van Dijk, Children’s Pastor at the Young Heirs Ministry of the Tabernacle of Emmanuel Full Gospel Assemblies and Superintendent Young Heirs Ministry, which collaborated with Zara Charitable Foundation in hosting the event.

“Due to the pandemic and COVID 19, last year, we were not able to hold a giveaway,” she added. “We usually have a few fundraisers throughout the year to hold a backpack and school supplies drive in order to give back to the community.

“This year, we were not able to do any of those things,” Pastor Yhap-van Dijk added. “Instead, the Zara Realty Foundation generously offered to assist by donating not only 300 backpacks but also to fill the backpacks with much-needed school supplies. We are very grateful for the generosity of the Subraj family and are excited to help the community children have a successful school year.”

Young Heirs Ministry and the Zara Charitable Foundation said in a joint statement that the 300 new bookbags given away at the event were loaded with important supplies: notebooks, binders, rulers, pencil cases, pens, pencils and erasers, among others.

“I was happy to see the gratitude on the faces of these children and families,” said Sherry Algredo, 1st vice chair of Community Board 9 and its Education-Youth Services chair, who helped organize the event.

“What the Zara Charitable Foundation is doing is a blessing to families, especially during this pandemic, and they deserve to be recognized for their philanthropic work in our community,” he added. “I also want to highlight Resident Pastor Stephen Mootoo, who coordinated this event, as it would not be possible without his hard work.”

Over recent years, the Zara philanthropies’ focus on education has helped provide children throughout Queens with specialty test prep training; donated computer labs to local high schools; made generous gifts to support special robotics and STEM educational programming; and, earlier this year, after a horrific 6-alarm fire in Richmond Hill, Zara provided new computers for the children whose families tragically lost their homes and belongings in that December 2020 fire.

“Education is so vital to the success of our next generations and our society,” Subraj said. “So, it is why the Zara Foundation and the George Subraj Family Foundation are so proud to have teamed up with these wonderful community partners to pitch in and help out some great local families and their children to be as successful as their dreams allow.”