Operation School Bell® – More Than Just Clothing Kids

Yes, Assistance League is known for clothing children so they can go to school dressed liked their classmates. It is said that being dressed like their peers helps children build self-esteem and feel “part of the group.” They can stop worrying about what they’re wearing and concentrate on learning.

But there are also other ways Assistance League chapters are helping kids stay in school. One, you might say, is helping through the back door—giving monetary aid to teachers for those supplies and “extras” that help teachers reach their students’ minds. Some of you reading this may have experienced this yourself. Your classroom needs something to help you with lessons or you would like to try out a new idea, but the school’s budget can’t cover it. So you personally purchase what you need. That may be okay once in a while but not on a regular basis. And that’s where some of our chapters step in to help.

Assistance League of Arcadia’s program, “Links to Learning,” “provides an opportunity for local school district teachers and non-administrative staff to apply for monetary awards.  These funds enhance and develop new or different approaches to teaching, stimulate creative thought, and expand curriculum enriching students’ educational and classroom experiences.”

Another chapter with a “Links to Learning” program is Assistance League of Greater Wilmington. Their program is in its fifth year, and they have already contributed over $80,000 to local schools. The awards “enable educators to enrich classroom and extracurricular activities and develop new approaches to learning.”

All the big office supply and drug stores across the country are already having sales for “back to school supplies.” Remember how much fun it was to line up your newly sharpened pencils and crayons in their boxes; and, the care you took to fill your notebook with dividers and a package of lined paper? Members of Assistance League of Boise work hard to make sure students in need have the new school supplies they require to start the school year. To accomplish this, each spring they have the Ada Country Public Schools fill out special requests for school supplies. Their members purchase the supplies and then, in August, members and volunteers assemble and distribute the supplies to each participating school. It’s a large program requiring a large budget. In the 2015-2016 fiscal year, the chapter provided supplies to 96 public schools in Ada County reaching over 12,700 students in need.

Scholarships are another way chapters are helping to provide additional education opportunities for students. Since 2003, Assistance League of Atlanta’s “Links to Education” program has awarded over $720,000 in need-based scholarships to more than 450 college students pursuing post-secondary education at seven Georgia colleges and universities.

Thanks to the financial support of Assistance League of Austin and generous grants, their Scholarship Program has expanded in size and scope since 1998, when it was established with a small endowment and initial scholarships for five scholars.  In 2016-2017, they gave 46 scholarships.  Graduation results for their scholars is extraordinarily high and the chapter feels this is due in part to the advocacy program. This program pairs an Assistance League of Austin member with each scholar, “providing a unique support system of available discretionary funds for meeting unexpected financial challenges to academic progress and offering additional psychological support.”

Even before Assistance League’s first involvement in the 2012 Make A Difference Day, chapters were working with students on reading and supplying books to schools’ classrooms and libraries. Many chapters give a new book to each child clothed. Besides a “Book Gift Program,” Assistance League of Phoenix has a “Birthday Book Program.” This popular program was established in 2007 and annually provides almost 7,500 books to students in nine schools. It addresses an important factor that affects literacy—having books in the home. Every child in the school can select an age-appropriate book on their birthday from the Birthday Corner. The book is a gift to them from Assistance League and shows that “a book is a gift that can be opened over and over.”

The last way featured that helps children stay in school is the Dental Clinic. A number of Assistance League chapters are involved providing this important service to students in need. Who can focus on schoolwork with an aching tooth in their mouth?

Assistance League of Orange Dental Health Center offers low-cost dental care, as well as dental education for school age children (K-12) from the Orange Unified School District. Their clinic is on-site and saw 832 patients in the 2015-2016 year. The chapter works closely with local school administrators, school nurses and community aides who screen students who have no insurance and qualify for the free or reduced fee lunch program. The chapter believes “that children with healthy teeth feel better about themselves and consequently are more successful in their schoolwork and life.”

With 23,000 volunteers and 120 chapters nationwide, Assistance League works in many ways to keep children in school. Scroll up to the toolbar and click on “FIND A CHAPTER OR THRIFT SHOP.” Search for a chapter in your area to see what they are doing besides clothing children for school. Click on a chapter’s website and you may discover programs similar to the ones above and some not touched on here. You’ll also find information on how you can become a chapter member and make an Assistance League difference in your community.