BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) – Operation School Bell® is an extraordinary field trip for students from more than 40 area schools.
Busloads of children show up twice a year to Assistance League of Birmingham in Homewood. When they arrive it’s like having an appointment for a cool boutique and they try on new clothes they get to keep.
It’s hard to know who is more excited, the children or Jody Dean, the leader of Assistance League, and the rest of the volunteers. The volunteers spent last year preparing, raising money and stacking shelves full of clothes.
Barbara Kelley, a past president, showed us rooms full of shelves stacked with pants and shirts for boys, another room is filled with uniform clothes and then the room Kelley likes the most.
“Of course I think our favorite room is the girls room. The little girls get the cutest clothes ever,” she said.
There is a thrift shop upstairs in the old Homewood library building. Proceeds from the shop also help with Operation School Bell.
“We have our shop upstairs that requires a lot of work and we have a literacy program at Shades Cahaba in Homewood. So we have a lot going on and we need more help,” Kelley said.
Kelley says Operation School Bell serves some 1,600 students each year from the Birmingham area, Fairfield, Bessemer, Homewood and Hoover.
Kelley says they need more volunteers and say that while most are teachers, they welcome anyone to become a member of Assistance League.
Principal Natasha Flowers knows how life-changing this can be. Most of their parents are what we might call working poor. They go to work daily and still may not have enough sometimes to pay for things like clothes for growing children. Flowers tells us it’s a way of partnering with parents.
“This is about saying I see you and let me serve you; let me help you meet the needs because you are doing all that you can. Let us at the school system and the community help you pick up the slack,” Flowers said.
Still, not all the children who need the help get it because parents don’t always fill out the necessary forms. Each school can bring 40 students, who receive the bag full of clothes along with a hygiene products and a book. Before they leave they drop thank you notes in a basket.
”It just gives me goosebumps to even talk about it. It’s such a blessing for each and every one of us who have been given the gift of service. These kids are amazing. They do a happy dance over a toothbrush and they are so grateful. It just makes you want to do more and more and more,” Dean says.