OPERATION SCHOOL BELL®
- In 1968-1969, fifteen Colorado Springs women, wishing to help disadvantaged schoolchildren, clothed 17 children at a cost of $7.50 per child for a total of $127.50. This was the first local participation in Operation School Bell, a program of National Assistance League.
- Initially Operation School Bell and the Bargain Box Thrift Store were located at 509 S. Tejon. In 1974 when that building was torn down, the Bargain Box was moved to 118 S. Tejon and Operation School Bell was moved to a house on Uintah Street owned by School District 11, where it stayed for nine years.
- New clothing was not always provided. Some used clothing came from the Bargain Box.
- In 1975 Assistance League of Colorado Springs rented, and then purchased, the building at 211 E. Costilla for the Bargain Box. After expansion of the building, Operation School Bell was moved there in 1983, and stayed until 2013.
- Assistance League of Colorado Springs bought and stored new school clothing for Operation School Bell. Children were bussed to the Costilla Street building where they selected clothes they liked (pants, shirts, jacket, hat, gloves, underwear and socks), as well as an age-appropriate book, school supplies and a hygiene kit. This process resulted in inventory overages and shortages of critical clothing supplies.
- In 2013 Assistance League of Colorado Springs established a partnership with Kohl’s Department Store, which provides a retail shopping experience for children who come (with a parent) to “shop” for their school clothing needs. Hygiene kits are also provided.
Definition and Process
- Assistance League of Colorado Springs works with K – 12 public schools located in El Paso County.
- School counselors select the children based on need.
- Schools are given initial allotments based on the Federal guidelines for Free and Reduced Lunch totals.
- Current allowances per child are $65 (grades K – 3), $75 (4 – 5) and $90 (6 – 12).
- The budget for the 2016-2017 school year was $190,000 and our goal was to clothe 2,800 children from Sept. 13 – Oct. 5, 2016 at Kohl’s. We reached our goal.
- Since the start of Operation School Bell, Assistance League of Colorado Springs has clothed 88,400 students at a cost of more than $4,200,000.
Stories and Testimonials
- After selecting her clothing at Operation School Bell, a high school girl dressed in sweats said, “These [the sweats] are the only clothes I’ve had to wear to school. It’s so nice to have new clothes!”
- A grateful mother said: “What a true blessing this program is….Thank you for putting a smile on my children’s faces and saving a mother from having to explain why I couldn’t provide a basic need.”
- A teacher said: “Thank you on behalf of our students for your efforts to enhance their self-esteem, give them warmth, and for letting them know that there are people in this world who care for their welfare.”
- A young man, who had been clothed by Operation School Bell as a child, was at Kohl’s during Operation School Bell and enjoyed helping children with their selections. Kohl’s was impressed and offered him a job!