A Story About Stories

Assistance League of the Chesapeake and Project Literacy

Assistance League of the Chesapeake Project Literacy Books

This is a story about stories.

This past June, Assistance League of the Chesapeake members gave every fifth grader at Georgetown East, Meade Heights, and Van Bokkelen elementary schools a hardback copy of “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio.

The protagonist in this book is Auggie Pullman, who was born with a facial difference. Auggie wants to be treated as an ordinary child when he attends his first mainstream school in fifth grade. But his classmates can’t get past his extraordinary face. The themes of identity, acceptance, and bullying resonate strongly with the fifth graders as they “wonder” what it would be like to be Auggie.

The students served by Assistance League of the Chesapeake have very few books at home. We all know that growing up in a house full of books is a major boost to literacy. So, in addition to the hardbacks given to fifth graders, we gave a paperback copy of a book to all the other students at Georgetown East, Meade Heights, and Van Bokkelen.

Titles included “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle. This classic children’s book teaches pre-reading concepts of rhyme, rhythm, and repetition. Another book was “Clementine” by Sara Pennypacker. In this book, Clementine helps out her friend Margaret, which turns out to be quite hard to do. A third book was “Anna, Banana, and the Little Lost Kitten” by Anica Mrose Rissi. In this illustrated chapter book, Anna and her two best friends rescue a stray kitten and try to find a good home for him.

Our Project Literacy program donated close to 1,300 books to under-served children in Anne Arundel County during the last school year.

Giving away books speaks directly to our mission to give children in need the tools for success. We are committed to spreading a love of reading to all the children we serve!

You Can Be a Part of Assistance League:

Grier and the Stork’s Nest Baby Shower

Grier, Assistance League of the ChesapeakeOne program that perfectly fits our mission to transform lives and strengthen community is our Stork’s Nest Baby Shower. This program was started by this month’s featured member, Grier Smokovich. Always one of the first to volunteer to help with a program, Grier came up with the idea when Assistance League of the Chesapeake was looking to expand its programs. Baltimore Washington Medical Center (BWMC) had just opened the Stork’s Nest and we knew it would be a good fit for us.

The Stork’s Nest program offers classes to expectant mothers that include:

  • the importance of prenatal care
  • expectations during labor and delivery
  • breastfeeding
  • basic infant care
  • safe sleeping

The program’s emphasis is on engaging pregnant women who do not receive regular prenatal care and are at an elevated risk for having a low birth weight baby or premature birth. Expectant mothers who participate in the program earn points by attending Stork’s Nest classes, going to their prenatal care appointments, and adopting healthy behaviors. These points can then be used to shop at the Stork’s Nest store, where women can “purchase” a variety of infant care items including clothing, diapers, and car seats.

Assistance League of the Chesapeake Stork's Nest Baby ShowerAssistance League of the Chesapeake now has an annual “Baby Shower” to benefit the Stork’s Nest store. The myriad of baby items donated exceeds $3,000 each year.

Like many of our members, Grier heard about Assistance League from friends. “Assistance League members like giving back to the community and are delightful. We work with at-risk children, but while doing so, we enjoy each other’s company. I have found many friends from participating in Assistance League.”

A member since 2003, Grier’s experience with Assistance League of the Chesapeake has expanded beyond Stork’s Nest to include volunteering at Georgetown East Elementary School. She helps in the elementary and pre-k classes, and also reads to students. “I always leave feeling that I have gotten as much as I have given,” she says.

Grier is also a puppeteer with Kids On The Block. The shows impart an anti-bullying message to second graders, with performances twice a month. This special program has touched the lives of thousands of local children. In addition, she has been an active participant in all aspects of Assistance League over her many years of service.

Please join me! Click here to go to our membership page.

Grier, Assistance League of the Chesapeake member since 2003

Meet Eddie, Claire, Jennifer, Brenda, and Melody

Kids On The Block puppets by Assistance League of the ChesapeakeThrough the years, over 20,000 area students have gotten to know Eddie, Claire, Jennifer, Brenda, and Melody, who are puppets in our Kids On The Block troupe. With their distinct personalities, they teach children about the importance of using kindness and caring both in and out of school. Through the Kids On The Block program, Assistance League of the Chesapeake has been entertaining second graders in Anne Arundel County for 16 years with this unique series of plays about bullying.

Bullying is a national public health issue. It affects those who are bullied, those who bully, and those who witness the bullying. It also affects a child’s mental health and is linked to many negative outcomes including substance abuse and suicide.

From October through April our cast and crew visit schools for 45-minute shows, which are presented free of charge. Our members eagerly donate their time and talents for about 13 performances each school year, totaling over 800 volunteer hours.

Through carefully scripted material, the puppets portray real-life situations. Eddie is being bullied by a nasty boy in school, but learns to deal with the boy in a positive way, thanks to his friend Claire. Claire is smart, kind, and has wisdom way beyond her age. She counsels Eddie to do positive things when being bullied: tell a teacher, stand by a friend who is being bullied, and work together to raise awareness of the problem. Jennifer is a rough and ready little girl with a learning difference. She can sing, dance, and play soccer. She gets straight A’s in math, but has an issue with reading and writing. Brenda is a little over weight but very sensitive to being bullied about how she looks. Jennifer helps her learn to ignore the bad remarks and like who she is. Melody is a smart and sassy girl who does well in school and offers to help Jennifer with her school work.

Kids On The Block by Assistance League of the Chesapeake

Kids On The Block puppets teach children:

  • What constitutes bullying
  • Problem-solving techniques
  • How to get help from adults
  • How to accept differences and similarities among their peers
  • How to reject unacceptable bullying behavior

The children in the audience come to identify with the puppets and open up to them as if they were trusted friends. Students are encouraged to accept physical, social, medical, and cultural differences, and are empowered to tell an adult about any perceived bullying.

Our puppet “kids” offer sound advice to the second graders at each school we visit. From our block to theirs, we are rewarded with their smiles as they absorb important life lessons at each performance.

Learn all about Assistance League of the Chesapeake programs.

You Can Be a Part of Assistance League:

How a newspaper article changed my life

Assistance League member. You can be a part of Assistance League of the Chesapeake!It was a normal weekday in 2003 and I was enjoying my after-breakfast coffee. Having just retired from working with a state senator, I was eager to try something new. As I flipped through our local newspaper, an article on the volunteer page caught my eye. It was a write-up about Assistance League of the Chesapeake and its work at a nearby school. I had taught school in San Diego when my husband was in the Navy and thought it would be fun to work with children again.

A few days later, I bravely walked into an Assistance League meeting. I was warmly welcomed and discovered that they were going to be volunteering at Georgetown East Elementary School, which was close to my home. I think I may have been one of the first volunteers from our chapter at the school.

Since that first meeting with Assistance League of the Chesapeake, I have had many rewarding years. I’ve helped on school field trips, started an after-school knitting group, volunteered as an assistant or reader in almost every grade, and helped with Georgetown East’s holiday shop and spring carnival.

Because I loved being a pen pal when I was a child, I wanted to give these kids the same experience. So, for the past 10 years, the children have written to classes in Florida, Texas, California, Virginia, and believe it or not, Nepal. One of the children in Florida wrote that his favorite food was grits. Some of our children had never had them, so I brought in a grits casserole for them to try. I loved the expressions on their faces as they tasted this “exotic” food.

Assistance League of the Chesapeake Pen Pal Enrichment ActivityI’ve also been active in other chapter programs and events. In addition to volunteering at Georgetown East, I’ve enjoyed being a part of Kids On The Block, a puppet troupe that presents shows with an anti-bullying message. Sing-alongs for seniors is another fun program that gives us and the attendees great joy. Best of all, I’ve enjoyed sharing these activities with the wonderful members of Assistance League of the Chesapeake and I have made real friends in this warm community of volunteers.

One notice in the newspaper 16 years ago has made it possible for me to work with hundreds of under-served children in our community and, I truly believe, make a difference. The best part of it is that the rewards flow both ways.

Please join me! Click here to go to our membership page.

Maureen, Assistance League of the Chesapeake member since 2003

Let me tell you about Bob:

Sing-Alongs at Assistance League of the Chesapeake

Like many 87-year-old seniors, Bob has lived a full and busy life. He is a resident of an assisted-living facility, and though frail in body, his mind is still active. He has come to look forward to the visits by Assistance League of the Chesapeake members who lead residents in sing-alongs.

The first time he attended a sing-along, he was a little hesitant. But as the music started, he found himself sitting up a little straighter, and soon he was recalling the words, rhythms and melodies from songs he learned decades ago, while tapping in time to the music.

Assistance League members, including Caroline Gilbert shown above with Bob, work the crowd, help residents turn the pages in their song books, play the piano and drums and lead the songs. Some of the residents have diminished cognitive abilities, but once the music starts, they often stand, sing and sway to the music. At one of these events, the gentleman sitting next to Bob showed a special fondness for a song. He was handed a microphone and his rich warm voice filled the room as he led the group in a war-time favorite.

Now Bob won’t miss a sing-along. He always leaves feeling buoyed and inspired by the joy of the music and the camaraderie and connection with others.

Sing-Alongs at Assistance League of the ChesapeakeOur sing-alongs help seniors make memories and recall poignant ones. On one particularly eventful evening, League members were leading the residents in Valentine’s Day songs. After a few songs, a well-dressed gentleman asked if we could play some of the songs again so he could sing them directly to his wife, who was a resident there. Trying to make eye contact and gently touching her cheek, he sang. Partway through his performance, she focused her attention on him, and with a tear rolling down her face, leaned over and kissed him. He jumped up and cried out, “Thank you, thank you. She hasn’t kissed me in three years!”

You Can Be a Part of Assistance League:

What giving back to the community really means

I Am Assistance League

Over the last six years, I have:

  • Realized the extreme level of need in Anne Arundel County
  • Found a great way to be a part of the solution
  • Experienced satisfying personal change by volunteering with Assistance League® of the Chesapeake

I joined Assistance League of the Chesapeake in 2013 through a friend. I was new to the community, and met Maureen Smith, a long-time member. Upon hearing that I wanted to start volunteering locally, she told me all about the good works our chapter was doing in Anne Arundel County. Her enthusiasm was contagious!

I signed up immediately, and have made volunteering in our chapter a priority ever since. I started by reading with second grade students at Georgetown East Elementary School, then helped with Pen Pals and served on the Board as secretary and membership vice president. Now I am chairman of the Grants Committee. This year, I began working with the Chessie reading program at Meade Heights Elementary School and measuring the kids for their uniforms through our Kids In Need program. I have found enjoyment in every aspect of these activities.

When I moved to Annapolis, I knew that I wanted to work with children and give back to our community. Joining Assistance League was the perfect way to accomplish this. What I didn’t realize was that volunteering would give me many opportunities to grow personally. I never imagined myself on a board or writing grants, but I opened my mind and heart and said “Yes!”

I am energized working with the wonderful, giving women who belong to our chapter. The enthusiasm, exchange of ideas, social contacts and the warm and welcoming environment that our members share are a huge part of the experience. I am thankful to be a part of this amazing organization.

Please join me! Click here to go to our membership page.

Kim, Assistance League of the Chesapeake member since 2013

Let me tell you about Alejandra:

Assistance League of the Chesapeake Kids In NeedAlejandra is a student at Germantown Elementary School. Her family of five lives in a one-room structure behind someone else’s home. Identified as in-need by the school counselor, Alejandra joined over 2,000 students around Anne Arundel County, Maryland, who this year received polo shirts, sweatshirts, khaki pants, underwear, socks and toiletries from Assistance League of the Chesapeake.

On a sunny Friday in September, Assistance League volunteers arrived at Germantown Elementary. Amidst the sounds of children’s laughter and school intercom announcements, volunteers measured the students, carefully allowing for growth.

When we asked Alejandra if she knew what size she usually wore, she replied that she had never been to a store to get new clothing and that she had always worn her siblings’ hand-me-downs.

“The uniforms help students build confidence,” says the school counselor, Emily Creighton. “The students love their uniforms and are very excited about measuring day.” We are told that the parents of these children really appreciate this gift, which eases part of their financial burden and helps their children do better in school.

Each year the hard-working members of Assistance League of the Chesapeake provide new school clothing to many disadvantaged students just like Alejandra. We are proud to be able to give new school uniforms to students at six elementary schools in the Annapolis area. Since 2012, we have provided over 10,000 uniforms to students, but we wish we could provide more!

Your donation of $50 will purchase a uniform for a child just like Alejandra. Learn how to help a child in need!

Kids In Need School Clothing from Assistance League of the Chesapeake