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Montclair's Minority Police Officers Team Up to Prepare Students for School

Natalie Heard Hackett

Tuesday, August 26, 2014 • 4:00pm

MONTCLAIR, NJ – Sentinels 16 and a collaborative group of community organizations gathered on Sunday in the parking lot of Charles H. Bullock School to distribute school supplies to needy Montclair families.

Summer is almost over and as students and parents prepare for the start of school, many go school shopping for supplies and new clothes. For some families, the experience in preparing for the start of school can pose a financial hardship.The Sentinels 16 responded to the need with action. 

More than 11 years ago, the Sentinels 16, a minority police organization, began looking for ways to give back to the community they serve. "They began to donate school supplies to needy families. Since then, they have teamed up with other groups and now donate supplies with other collaborative groups. Joining forces with other community organizations such as the Montclair Education Association (MEA), Councilwoman Baskerville, NAACP and many others, "...over 250 backpacks were given to students," says Detective Kim Nelson-Edwards.

Sgt. Tyrone Williams said, "Working in the schools, we realized that students were coming to school not properly prepared. The minority police officers wanted to find a way to give back to the community. This is one of the things that we do to help the kids to be properly prepared before school starts.” 

The school supply give-a-way included a DJ, free food, activities and games for youths and resources for parents.

Williams explains that there were several organizations doing similar back-to-school activities and they all decided to join forces to make a greater impact. “Other like-minded organizations in the community were doing the same thing, so we decided to come under one umbrella and make it one large event,” Williams added.

In addition to Sentinels 16 members and 4th Ward Councilor Baskerville, in attendance were several teachers from the Montclair Public Schools, MEA President Gayle Shepard and her leadership team, Montclair NAACP President Al Pelham , Montclair Community Pre-K staff, and We Care About Schools representatives, to name a few. Resources for parents were also placed in the backpacks given.

Councilor Renee Baskerville said, "I’ve been volunteering with them for the last six years and this year, I came to them and suggested that we do a collaborative effort with the schools.  I suggested that we get MEA involved, our preschool representatives are here today and other organizations so that they can put information in the backpacks. When families left today, they were getting information on who to contact, important dates, important numbers and who their representatives are for the PTA.” 

“I am the head of a group called the 4th Ward collaborative, which is an umbrella organization, in which all of them are partners, Sentinels 16, NAACP, SOFIA, MEA...  If parents need information or can’t make it to a meeting, need health care, then I would be the one to contact to help them,” Baskerville continued. 

As the 4th Ward Collaborative group, Baskerville explained that they will host another event on October 31, which is the Healthy Harvest Fest.

Det. Kim Nelson-Edwards said, "We have been doing this collaboratively for about seven years, but we started doing this five years before that. Initially, the Sentinels 16 and the Fraternal Order of Police were donating together for years. We would just make donations to ensure we had the supplies.  The last couple of years, we have been asking other organizations to partner with us so that we could service enough kids.”

The mission of Sentinels 16 is, “...to unite members in bonds of fraternity and benevolence, promote social and mutual aid of the membership and community, be vigilant on issues concerning the fair, just, non-discriminatory and impartial treatment of the membership and citizens of the community. Encourage the growth and advancement of the membership in the career of law-enforcement.”

For more information or to donate, visit www.sentinels16.org

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