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Operation School Bell®

Operation School Bell, the signature program of Assistance League, provides assistance to children in need.  Chapters determine the specific needs in their local communities, then develop, fund and implement the programs.

Operation School Bell began in the 1950s as a one-woman effort to provide clothing to disadvantaged children so they could attend school. 

In 2012-2013, Operation School Bell programs for 120 chapters across the United States clothed more than 330,815 children Since 1958, nearly 4 million children have benefited from Ruth Ann Montgomery's vision of one woman making a difference in her community. Assistance League member volunteers make a difference every day through programs such as Operation School Bell.

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Each chapter determines the need in their community and how best their volunteers can operate the program. Some chapters outfit each child identified by school nurses and counselors at their chapter facility. Other chapters provide children in need with clothing at shopping events at local stores or through vouchers. Other items provided by chapters are personal care kits, hair cuts, school supplies, books, dictionaries, dental and vision care.

For many children, these are the first new clothes or book or even toothbrush they have ever received.

Endorsements

The Shopping Experience event will help build students' confidence and make a tremendous impact in their education.  Students who come to school prepared and excited to learn are much more likely to have a positive experience and thrive.  I commend and offer my sincere appreciation to the Assistance League of Hawaii for its longstanding and broad support of Hawaii's educators, students and their families. -Kathryn S. Matayoshi, Superintendent, State of Hawaii Department of Education

One thing I have learned over the 12-years (as a Program Facilitator and as an Assistant Principal) is that it takes a huge amount of effort, dedication, and manpower to run a program. If you have a vision for what you want to accomplish, a leader who puts their mind to it and is willing to see it through, you can do just about anything. But, what turns a program into a lasting legacy is when it is able to be repeated, time and time again, and when it permeates entire communities, benefiting more and more people. Operation School Bell is without question one of those lasting legacies in the Long Beach Unified School District. I have had the great fortune of working at five schools in the past 12-years, and I have been in partnership with your organization every single year. You have provided full sets of clothing to our children and families at each of these schools, and most often, the number of families you have supported are in the hundreds!

Dress codes and uniforms have become an essential part of our district's success. Data has shown that they provide a level-playing field for our students and decrease the incidences of teasing and bullying at our schools, they increase the focus on student learning and achievement, and they provide several crucial layers of safety to our campuses. The majority of our students' parents have also come to realize the benefits of having a dress code in our schools, yet many of them need support in order to comply with the dress code guidelines, and that's where your organization comes to the rescue!

I cannot even imagine trying to implement and enforce a dress code policy at a school without your support. I know that what you do for our students and for our schools is invaluable, and for that, we (the entire Long Beach community) are so very thankful. - Beth Cohen, Assistant Principal, Jefferson Leadership Academies, Long Beach, CA

How It Began

Ruth Ann Montgomery, a teacher in the Los Angeles school district in the 1950s, saw children from one family coming to school on a rotating basis. She discovered that the children came to school based on whose turn it was to wear the clothes. She asked other parents to donate castoffs and the "Clothes Closet" opened in Ruth Ann's classroom, giving out clothing to children so they all could attend school on a regular basis.

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The Montgomery family moved to Bakersfield, California and Ruth Ann formed the Volunteer Service Guild to promote her mission of outfitting school children. Clothes Closet was re-named Operation School Bell by Winni Davis' husband Tom and his experiences in the military. Volunteer Service Guild became a chapter of Assistance League in 1958 when the group became the Bakersfield chapter, bringing Operation School Bell to Assistance League.  In 1997, Operation School Bell was adopted as the national philanthropic program for all Assistance League chapters.  In 2008, Ruth Ann Montgomery was honored at Assistance League National Conference in Los Angeles to celebrate 50 years of Operation School Bell.

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National Award

Many organizations, foundations and individuals support Assistance League in this effort by providing significant financial, in-kind, hands-on and spiritual support. The direct, powerful and positive effect these contributions have on the Operation School Bell program is often recognized with the presentation of the National Operation School Bell Award. To see a list of current and past recipients, please click HERE.