Volunteers with Operation School Bell helped 53 students from Bliss and Logan elementary schools pick out free, new school clothes at the organization’s headquarters Jan. 26.
“It helps the families so they don’t have to spend as much on clothing,” said Sylvia Mueller, counselor at Bliss Elementary School, located on Fort Bliss. “It helps support the kids because increasingly times are tight, and they need a little help.”
Operation School Bell, affiliated with the Assistance League of El Paso, started in 1968, and provides children at schools throughout the area with three pairs of pants, two shirts, a T-shirt, six pairs of underwear, seven pairs of socks, a pair of shoes, a jacket and a small bag of toiletry items, said Lisa Miertschin, public relations chairwoman for the Assistance League of El Paso.
Children who go to schools that require uniforms receive clothing that fulfills the requirements, and children who go to schools with no uniform receive jeans instead of uniform pants and can choose from a wider variety of shirt colors, Miertschin said.
It costs about $85 to help each child, Miertschin said, and the organization has helped more than 3,800 children in grades one through five so far this school year.
School counselors ask teachers to recommend students who might benefit from the program, Miertschin said.
Ricardo Cano, counselor at Logan Elementary School, said some children don’t own a good pair of shoes and socks, and the program helps a lot. The jackets are also helpful once the weather turns cold, he said.
More than a dozen volunteers helped with the Jan. 26 distribution, and Miertschin said the league and all the other support organizations that fall under it have no paid employees. In addition to Operation School Bell, the league also runs a thrift shop, provides clothing and toiletries to assault survivors, gives Teddy bears to first responders so they can hand them out at traumatic scenes, and more.
The league charges an annual $55 membership fee and holds fundraisers throughout the year, and 85 cents of every dollar the league receives goes to programs, Miertschin said.
The league’s headquarters, which includes space for Operation School Bell, is located at 2728 E. Yandell Drive, El Paso, and it also houses the thrift store.
By Wendy Brown, Fort Bliss Bugle Editor