ymca sahar akbarzaiPHOTO: Sahar Akbarzai of Old Bridge helps Y campers create a mural that will travel to Afghanistan along with school supplies being collected at both the Red Bank YMCA and the Old Bridge YMCA. 

Shrewsbury, NJ - The Community YMCA is hosting a school supply drive through August 15 to help give kids in Red Bank and Afghanistan a great start to the new school year. The drive is part of the Y’s new national Togetherhood initiative that encourages Y members to give back and support their neighbors through community service projects.

“Togetherhood is a great opportunity for Y members to activate social responsibility and give back to organizations that need our help,” said Rhonda Anderson, President and CEO of The Community YMCA. “We’re pleased to bring the community together to help children right here in our community and in Afghanistan. “

Stacey Lastella, Vice President of Camping and Outreach Services for The Community YMCA, who oversees the Togetherhood initiative for The Community YMCA, said it is designed to be “a simple, fun and rewarding way for members to identify ways to give back through their own ideas, skills and energy, and the network of the Y.”


Y members Sahar Akbarzai of Old Bridge and Aisha Bhoori of Middletown, both recent high school graduates, expressed an interest in a school supply drive, and through Togetherhood, were able to lead the effort. Both have established their own nonprofit organizations, the Hope Foundation of Afghanistan and Dreamers Without Borders, respectively, to provide support to children in war-torn Afghanistan.Akbarzai explained that school supplies collected will be distributed to children in the Red Bank area through Lunch Break and shipped to refugee camps in Afghanistan, where children attend school in tents without electricity or chalkboards.

ymca aisha bhoori sahar akbarzai


PHOTO: Y members (L) Aisha Bhoori, Middletown, and Sahar Akbarzai, Old Bridge, are coordinating a school supply drive through the YMCA to help give kids in Red Bank and Afghanistan a great start to the new school year.

As part of a cultural change between local children and kids in Afghanistan, the Y is also creating a mural to resemble the “hands-helping-hands” aspect of the Togetherhood project, Lastella said. The first set of hands were added last week to a mural by children attending the Y’s summer camps, while the second set will be created by the Afghan children when they receive the school supplies in September. The mural will travel back to Red Bank and will be displayed in the Y’s lobby as a symbol of “Togetherhood,” Lastella said.Akbarzai, whose family is from Afghanistan, and Bhoori, whose family is from Pakistan, are grateful for the donations of school supplies that will be shared with the Afghan children. “It’s wonderful to see a community come together and donate their time to help another community on the other side of the world,” Akbarzai said.

Bhoori said donations that are greatly appreciated include notebooks, activity books, pens/pencils, crayons, markers and pocket folders. For a full list of requested items, visit the Y Web site, www.TheCommunityYMCA.org.

Collection bins are available through Aug. 15 at The Community YMCA’s Family Health & Wellness Center, 166 Maple Ave., Red Bank and at the YMCA of Western Monmouth Country’s Old Bridge branch, 1 Mannino Park Drive.

Y members are invited to lead and participate in volunteer service projects, similar to the school supply drive, and can contact Holly Haines for more information, 732.741.2504 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.