Leadership Team

Back to School Shop, Inc. is operated as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization overseen by a Board of Directors.  Members of the Board also manage all day to day aspects of the program on a volunteer basis, including fundraising, item acquisition, marketing and public relations, volunteer management, event management, and business management.

In addition, several key volunteers provide ongoing support in bookkeeping, resource center co-ordination, donation acknowledgment and administration.

Board of Directors




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Meryl Japha is Executive Vice President for her fourth generation, family-owned business, O. Berk Company, a distributor of glass, plastic and aluminum containers, located in Union, NJ. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA, Ms. Japha spent many years employed as a purchasing agent with various consumer product companies in the Stamford (CT) area. She has been an active volunteer for over 25 years in the Stamford community where she resides with her husband, Ron. Her two grown children are off successfully pursuing their careers. Ms. Japha has served on numerous committees and as a Board member, Vice President and President of Temple Sinai in Stamford. She was instrumental in running its annual Mitzvah Day program and establishing its Amidah Leadership Initiative to train future volunteer leaders of the synagogue. Ms. Japha participated twice in the United Way of Western Connecticut Community Impact Grant Review process. She has served on the Board of the United Jewish Federation of Greater Stamford, New Canaan and Darien. Ms. Japha was named Volunteer of the Year by that organization in 2015 and received a Certificate of Special Recognition from Stamford Congressman Jim Hines and the State of Connecticut in recognition of this honor. She was also honored as a 2016 Family Champion by the Connecticut Council of Family Service Agencies. She is the current Vice President of Development of Schoke Jewish Family Service in Stamford, having also served as Board Secretary as well as co-chair of An Evening with JFS, its annual fundraising event, for the past five years. Ms. Japha is also a member of the editorial committee of the New Jewish Voice newspaper, a publication of the United Jewish Federation of Greater Stamford, New Canaan and Darien.

Ms. Japha is Co-Chair of the Board of Directors and Co-President of the Back to School Shop.




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Jane Levene is a communications professional with more than 35 years of experience in journalism, creative and business writing, public relations, media relations, media training, event management and the development of communications strategies. She has held numerous senior management positions in both the corporate and non-profit sectors at organizations such as Planned Communications, MCI International, Save The Children, LifeCare and Levco Tech, Inc. She has been active in the Stamford community where she has lived with her husband, Phil, for almost 35 years. Their three grown children attended Stamford Public Schools. From 2003 -2005, Ms. Levene taught creative writing to 3rd and 4th grade students at Davenport Elementary School. At Temple Sinai, Ms. Levene served as a Board member, Vice President, President of Sisterhood, Chair of the Communications Committee which was responsible for creating the organization’s first website, and Editor of the monthly Bulletin. She served as President of the Friends of Stamford High School and participated in several restructuring and Principal search committees for Stamford Public Schools, as well as been a Team Captain for the annual Step Out for Diabetes Walk event. Ms. Levene has received a Creative Magazine Award for Best Company Newsletter, an MCI WorldCom Award for Excellence in Service, an Ad Club of New York Award for an Innovative CNN Advertising Campaign, a Volunteer of the Year Award from the United Jewish Federation, a Certificate of Special Recognition from Stamford Congressman Jim Hines, and Recognition as a UJF Winter Gala Honoree by the State of Connecticut. Ms. Levene holds a Master of Arts from the S.I. Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University and has been a member of both the Public Relations Society of America and the International Association of Business Communicators.

Ms. Levene is Co-Chair of the Board of Directors and Co-President of the Back to School Shop.



Purchasing and Acquisition

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Linda Atkins has lived in Stamford for most of her adult life, and has been active in the community for most of that time. For over fifteen years, she served on the executive boards of the Springdale School, Dolan Middle School, and Stamford High School parent organizations, as well as on numerous school committees. In addition, she was a Girl Scout leader in Stamford and a member of Stamford Parent Teacher Council. She has held executive positions on the vestries of Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Trinity Emmanuel Church and is currently the treasurer for Church of Christ the Healer. Mrs. Atkins holds a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics from New York University and is currently an accounting assistant with a local Stamford accounting & tax firm.

Ms. Atkins is a member of the Board of Directors and serves as Chair of Purchasing.



Board Secretary/Marketing and Public Relations

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Charlesanna Ecker is a marketing and communications professional with experience in the consumer packaged goods industry and the non-profit sector. Her professional background is primarily in consumer products marketing and management, where she held senior management positions at the Pepsi-Cola Company and Nabisco Brands. She has been active in a number of area non-profit organizations over the last 30 years. She is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the Child Guidance Center of Southern Connecticut, where she chairs the Communications Committee and serves as a member of the Institutional Advancement Committee. Charlesanna was also a long time member of the Board of Trustees of The Long Ridge School in Stamford, where she served as Board President, Vice President, Secretary, and Chair of the Marketing, Development and Personnel Committees. She has also served as a member of the Executive Committee and the Communications Chair of the Parent Association of the Harvey School. Ms. Ecker is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and received an MBA in marketing and finance from the Kellogg School at Northwestern University. Charlesanna and her husband live in Stamford and have two children.

Ms. Ecker is Secretary of the Board of Directors and the Chair of Public Relations and Marketing.



School System Liaison

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Nan Gordon is a recently retired School Psychologist from the Stamford Public Schools where she just completed her fifteenth year. Prior to her work in the field of School Psychology, she was a Special Education Teacher in both Virginia and New York State. Ms. Gordon assisted in creating a school program at Four Winds Hospital in Katonah, New York where she also taught for fourteen years. Ms. Gordon is a member of the National Association of School Psychologists and the Connecticut Association of School Psychologists. She has been an active volunteer at Temple Sinai in Stamford serving as a Vice President of Education, Chair of the Religious School, Chair of Membership and many other committees. Currently, Ms. Gordon is serving on the Board of United Jewish Federation of Greater Stamford, New Canaan and Darien as Vice President for Education. Recently, she also served on an interfaith committee that brought a Syrian refugee family to Stamford. Ms. Gordon holds Master's Degrees in both Special Education from George Washington University and Psychology from Fairfield University, as well as a Certificate of Advanced Studies in School Psychology from Fairfield University.

Ms. Gordon is a member of the Board of Directors and serves as Chair of the School Liaison Committee of Back to School Shop.



Volunteer Management

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Lorraine Kweskin was born and raised in Stamford, graduated from Stamford Public Schools and is retired from her position as Vice President of Coast to Coast Telephone Center. She is a long-time member of United Jewish Federation of Greater Stamford, New Canaan and Darien Board of Trustees where she is a member of the Executive Committee, and has served in many volunteer roles including President of the Women’s Division, President of Women’s Philanthropy, campaign chair, and member of the allocations committee. She has also participated in five UJF missions to Israel, Ukraine and Georgia. Lorraine is a past board member of Agudath Shalom and the Stamford Jewish Community Center, where she has chaired the Women’s Seder, JCC Gala, and visual Arts portion of the Arts and Film Festival, and volunteered at many events including the Maccabi Games and Jump Start. She also organized the Sylvia Plotkin Memorial Mah Jongg Tounament in honor of her mother to benefit the JCC senior adult program. Ms. Kweskin is currently a member of the Arts and Film Committee of Fairfield County, a clown with HAHA (Health and Humor Associates) of Stamford Hospital and a member of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Stamford, New Canaan and Darien. She has been recognized by United Jewish Federation’s Women’s Division as “One of the Treasures” of the community, by the JCC as a Harold Hoffman Award winner, by Schoke Jewish Family Service as a recipient of their Mitzvah Award and together with her husband David, received a Lifetime Achievement Award from UJF.

Ms. Kweskin is a member of the Board of Directors of the Back to School Shop and serves as the Co-Chair of Volunteer Management.



Volunteer Management

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Debby Lione spent 20 years in the computer business, in both sales and operations, working for well-known computer resellers. In addition, she held positions at Pitney Bowes as Benefits Planning Administrator and as Financial Accounting Vendor Analyst, responsible for creating and implementing new and streamlined processes, as well as for auditing vendor billing and contractual agreements. Most recently, Ms. Lione worked for a small local company as Office Manager, where she organized, created and implemented new processes to create a more efficient and productive working environment. Ms. Lione has recently moved into semi-retirement, allowing her to pursue more opportunities to work with local charitable organizations. Since its inception in 2000, she has been involved with and currently serves on the Board of the Mickey Lione Jr. Fund, Inc., an organization that provides scholarships for Stamford youth and grants to youth sports organizations.

Ms. Lione is a member of the Board of Directors and serves as Co-Chair of Volunteer Management for the Back to School Shop.



Board Treasurer

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Barry A. Morris, who was born in Brooklyn, NY and raised in the Stamford community, is recently retired and lives with his wife, Colleen, in Glastonbury. He was formerly Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at STR Holdings, Inc. where he was responsible for global quality, supply chain and manufacturing operations of the company. Previously, Mr. Morris served as STR's Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer and prior to that served as STR's Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. Prior to joining STR, Mr. Morris was Chief Financial Officer of General Bearing Corporation as well as Director of Financial Services and Corporate Controller for BTR, Inc. Throughout the years, Mr. Morris has volunteered in both the Stamford and Trumbull communities. He served for two years as VP Finance for Congregation B'nai Torah in Trumbull and continues to volunteer at fundraising events. He also served as Assistant Scoutmaster for over 30 years for the Boy Scouts of America, Troop 15, Stamford, and is now its Scoutmaster. Mr. Morris holds a Bachelor of Science degree from American International College and an M.B.A. from the University of Connecticut.

Mr. Morris is a member of the Board of Directors and Treasurer for the Back to School Shop.



Event Logistics

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Allison Levene was born and raised in Stamford and attended Stamford Public Schools. She is currently an attorney with Ryan Ryan Deluca LLP. During law school, Ms. Levene worked as an intern at the Children’s Law Center of Central North Carolina and the North Carolina School Boards Association. She also served as the coordinator for the Forsyth County Teen Court as well as the coordinator for the tutoring and basketball programs for the Hanes Hosiery Community Center. Ms. Levene’s article, Parent Trigger Laws: Dispelling the Myths, was published in the Wake Forest Journal of Law and Policy. She also served as a research assistant for the forthcoming book, “Narratives Transformed: College Access from the Bottom-Up.” She is currently also actively involved with the March of Dimes. Ms. Levene has been honored with the CALI Award: Juvenile Law, the Laura J. Gendy Award for enriching the School of Law through the constant demonstration of integrity, compassion and strength of character, and with a Community Service Award from the Coalition for Drug Abuse Prevention. Ms. Levene holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Connecticut and a J.D degree from Wake Forest University.

Ms. Levene is a member of the Board of Directors and Chair of Event Logistics for the Back to School Shop.


Key volunteers


Wendy Lewis


Robin Mattice


Jami Birnbaum

VOLUNTEER AdministratiON

Bill Bassar

Site Design and Layout