It’s safe to say that 2020 has been a year like none other for Assistance League of Everett.
Since 1965 when Assistance League opened, one of its main goals is to provide new school clothes for children and teens through Operation School Bell.
But like many other nonprofit organizations, Assistance League had to alter some of its plans when the COVID-19 pandemic caused the state to shut down in mid-March, and continued to impact Snohomish County families through the start of the school year.
In previous years, students would come to Assistance League’s building, and volunteers would help them to personally select their free wardrobe of clothes. The personal contact between students and Operation School Bell® volunteers is gone for the time being.
“We’re really missing the joy,” said Operation School Bell co-chair Claudia Menard, a Mukilteo resident. “Now we’re just hoping we pick clothes that fit because we’re sending them out and then they’re being delivered by the school.”
Families fill out an order form with the child’s various sizes, and will receive three pairs of jeans, pants or leggings; one jacket; one sweatshirt; three shirts; six pairs of underwear; six pairs of socks; one personal hygiene kit; one pair of shoes; and one book.
Menard noted that the Operation School Bell is relying on school counselors, family support specialists and nurses to do much of the outreach to students.
“They’re the ones really responsive to do this for their students, who are in need,” Menard said.
So far around 600 students have been helped by volunteers, who have put together wardrobes for 40 to 45 students each day since Oct. 1.
Last year, Operation School Bell served 2,955 elementary and middle school students, 861 high school students, and 780 preschool students. More than 100,000 students have been clothed by the organization since 1965. Operation School Bell works with 15 school districts in Snohomish County, including Mukilteo.
“We’re here and we’re doing our best to take care of needy students,” said Pat Luczyk, a Mukilteo resident.
All of the clothing is new. Earlier this year, before the pandemic hit, Operation School Bell volunteers went to a clothing show in Las Vegas, where they purchased this year’s stock.
COVID-19 also has impacted Assistance League’s funding, with fundraising events canceled. The annual holiday home tour was an event that many in the community looked forward to attending every year.
Assistance League’s thrift store also was shut down but reopened in July under state guidelines. The hours are reduced, though. The store, at 5107 Evergreen Way in Everett, is open Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Donations are accepted Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m.-noon or until the donation area is full.
“We are still taking stuff to make money for the kids,” Luczyk said.
Assistance League President Donna Day is hoping to continue to build up funds for Operation School Bell.
“We know the need will be there next year,” Day said. “Hopefully, we’ll bring the kids into the building. … Our purpose is to serve the kids. We were lucky we had money in savings so we can cover this.”
Assistance League will be debuting a pop up shop – Holiday Boutique – on Nov. 7. The boutique, located on the upper floor of Assistance League’s building, will be open from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. A wide array of holiday gifts and crafts will be on sale.
For more information on Assistance League of Everett and Operation School Bell see https://www.assistanceleague.org/everett/.