School Supplies, Other Needs Lost in the Shuffle of Market Basket Turmoil

Anyone who – over the years – has shopped or who knows workers at the Chelsea Market Basket knows that many families and young people who work there depend on their paycheck to buy the necessities of life.

Until recently, Market Basket jobs have been dependable, well-paid and dignified.

Now, though, paychecks have been slashed and the necessities of life have chugged on.

One of those necessities that is coming full speed at the workers – many of whom are now only part-time or who have had their hours cut completely – is the need for school supplies and back to school gear.

As the Market Basket company continues to be roiled in turmoil and inaction, the lives of the employees and their families haven’t stopped, and through the efforts of two Chelsea sisters, the unmet need for school supplies may have been met – and then some.

The heavy media coverage of the Market Basket situation has focused on Board member allegiances, business strategies and the unwavering support for former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas.

It has honed in on rallies and hordes of employees calling for a return to the old arrangement.

However, not many TV cameras have followed those same faces home where their paychecks no longer arrive in their bank accounts and their families have not stopped needing things like school supplies.

Janatha Gonzalez and her sister, Tracy DeJesus, have been front and center at most of the rallies -and even though they don’t work at Market Basket – they have supported their friends and neighbors from Chelsea at the huge rallies.

Earlier this month, though, they saw the trouble on those faces. It was a trouble that spoke of full-time work reduced to part-time work or even no work. It was a trouble that, at the same time, showed the coming of the school year and no means to prepare their children.

“I think everybody is so focused on getting Market Basket back together, but they people don’t see so much that these are families with one child or three children,” said Janatha. “Anyone not knowing what they’re job is going to be one week after another is going to face some difficulties. These families depended on their Market Basket jobs to pay for things like school supplies. Now they only have part-time work or they’re being given no hours at all. Even the students that work part-time to save money for college or to pay for their school supplies – this has ended their part time jobs. These are people here in Chelsea who depend on jobs that are not so dependable right now.”

With that in mind, the two sisters jumped on an idea promoted by a Facebook page calling for help with school supplies for Market Basket workers.

Both reached out to the Market Basket, asking if they could put a homemade box asking for school supply donations. While the store managers were a little hesitant at first, they did consent to the idea.

Other donation boxes were placed at the Chelsea Collaborative and at Tito’s Bakery on Broadway.

The end result has been a cornucopia of pencils, notebooks, protractors and compasses.

“The turnout has been amazing,” said Janatha. “I’ve been able to fill up 75 backpacks. We’ve been stuffing backpacks every day with so many supplies while we sit in our kitchen. It’s been encouraging to see the local businesses in Chelsea and Charlestown donate, as well as the individuals who have flocked to support the workers. It seems like as soon as we empty the donation box, we get another call from the managers at the store telling us the bin is full again.”

In addition to the backpacks, they have also assembled binders with more dedicated supplies like calculators and compasses. Those supplies will go to the high school students who depend on their Market Basket jobs to pay for their supplies.

“So many of these high school kids pay for back to school by working at the store, and now those jobs aren’t there,” said Janatha.

Donations will be taken through the end this Friday, and the backpacks and binders will be handed out to the part-time Market Basket workers at the Chelsea store from noon to 2 p.m. this Sunday, Aug. 24.

“We are really excited and are really looking forward to getting these much-needed supplies in the hands of the workers this Sunday,” said Janatha.

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