Assistance League of Montgomery County, one chapter of 120 chapters in National Assistance League®, is dedicated to transforming the lives of children and adults through community programs.  With the strength and enthusiasm of the Montgomery County chapter members, we strive to make a difference in our community.

Now sit back, relax, and enjoy reading about the history that makes up “Our Story”.

In March 1985 a small group of energetic, determined ladies who wanted to make a difference in their community met and decided to “organize.”  They joined forces with Assistance League of Houston to become their first auxiliary—that was the beginning of the Lake Conroe Auxiliary of Assistance League of Houston, later to become Assistance League of Montgomery County.  Forty-one ladies became charter members.

A 900-square-foot Thrift Shop on Houston Street in downtown Conroe was opened, with that initial year spent organizing the first philanthropic program, Prime Time Treasures, which allowed senior citizens to sell their crafts and earn a little extra income to enhance their quality of life.

The “41” cleaned out their closets and kitchen cabinets and filled the Thrift Shop with goods to sell.  During those early stages, if the Thrift Shop earned $25 – $50, it was a HUGE day.  Cigar boxes were used for supplies, and adding machines were cash registers.  The biggest issue then became where to get more donations.  As one member put it, they solved that problem eventually by becoming “friendly” with all their neighbors and convincing them to clean their closets and cabinets and donate to the chapter.

In 1994 with the growth in membership, philanthropic programs, clothing donations, and funds, Assisance League of Houston and the National Assistance League Board approved the status of Assistance League of Lake Conroe Area as a guild of National Assistance League.  On March 13, 1995, the guild became the 92nd chapter to be chartered by National Assistance League.  Then in 2003, the membership of Assistance League of Lake Conroe Area approved a name change to Assistance League of Montgomery County to better reflect the demographic  makeup of the membership and the community served.

Every June 1, the beginning of a new fiscal year, the story continued – always with anticipation, excitement, and a renewed mission to make a difference in the lives of more children and adults in Montgomery County.  Yes, new boards of directors were installed each year, and a fresh, enthusiastic new president took over the reins—eager to delve into more projects and programs, obtain bigger and better grants, and create new strategies to increase revenue.  It was phenomenal!

Oh, the changes which were in store for this new organization over the following years.

    • New programs were formed, including the signature Assistance League program, Operation School Bell®, where we have now put smiles on the faces of almost 80,000 students in Montgomery County. Imagine the happiness and sense of confidence those students feel with new clothes.
    • The 900-square-foot space grew in June, 1997, when 4,500 square feet was leased in the Woodcreek Shopping Center at 2017 North Frazier. This facility provided space for the Thrift Shop, storage for the then five philanthropic programs, a board room, and an office.
    • In 2000 the first steps were taken to look for sites to build the chapter’s own facility. An acre of property at the corner of San Jacinto and Collins (renamed Metcalf in 2008) in downtown Conroe was purchased in 2002, and construction began.  The new 8,000-square-foot facility was completed in June 2003.  The Thrift Shop opened for business in the new location on July 7, with a ribbon-cutting and “Grand Opening Celebration” on July 10, 2003, to honor special supporters.  The new building, located at 126 North San Jacinto Street, housed the Thrift Shop and work area, a programs room, separate Operation School Bell rooms, a computer room, a meeting room, and a kitchen. The additions did not stop there.  A 375-square-foot space was created when some current Thrift Shop storage space was reallocated in the spring of 2018 to create more sales space.
    • Different uniforms became a part of our wardrobes. – Have you ever seen pictures of those first “apron-style” uniforms—thank goodness, we have become more fashionable with the red, white, and navy shirts we wear today, although at Operation School Bell dressings, we do often get mistaken for department store employees.
    • Computers have taken over; telephone calls have been replaced with emails, and the old adding machines are now cash registers. Even the cigar boxes are no longer needed, with plenty of built-in storage cabinets now available.

Known as a prominent philanthropic organization in the community at both the national and chapter levels, Assistance League of Montgomery County participates in the Lake Conroe Chamber of Commerce and takes an active part in special events sponsored by the City of Conroe.  Exposure in the community expands each year, with the Resource Development Team organizing fashion shows where specially-selected items of merchandise and fashions are taken “on the road” to community association meetings and events throughout the county.  The fashion shows bring an additional source of income, as well as an increased awareness of the chapter and its mission. Note:  Beginning in FY 2023-2024, fashion shows were replaced with group invitations to the Thrift Shop, where attendees receive an overview of our organization and get to shop in the Thrift Shop.

On April 1, 2015, the chapter celebrated its 30th anniversary, with a ribbon-cutting by Mayor Webb Melder and the Conroe Area/Lake Conroe Chamber of Commerce.  With a number of local dignitaries present, Mayor Melder proclaimed April 1 that year “Assistance League Day” in Conroe.

Over the years, the philanthropic programs grew from one program to eleven programs, with three of the programs eventually eliminated.  The latest change (in 2022-2023) was the incorporation of the Poison Information – Always Ask Program into Operation School Bell.   We also dropped “philanthropic” and call the teams “programs”.

Today, the chapter’s pride and joy come from the following eight programs:

  • Operation School Bell® – is the signature program of National Assistance League, as well as every chapter of Assistance League across the nation. Begun in April 1988, the goal of this program is to enhance self-esteem, promote learning, and encourage regular school attendance by providing new school clothing to economically-disadvantaged students in Montgomery County, as well as hygiene items, books, and other supplies that will help the students stay in school. The first year of Operation School Bell thirty-three children received new school clothing from one school district.  The program expanded to include all six school districts in Montgomery County; and by 2006, every public elementary school in the County was invited to participate in referring students.  Currently, students from kindergarten through high school in all Montgomery County public schools are invited to participate, with almost 80,000 students receiving new school clothing during the existence of Assistance League of Montgomery County.
        • Poison Information – Always Ask™ – (became a part of Operation School Bell in 2022-2023) began its evolution from the members’ work with the Poison Information Center in November 1988 when the Auxiliary used funds to purchase a computer and software for the Poison Control Center at Conroe Hospital. Since then, the program evolved into Poison Information – Always Ask in 2002 and grew to include “poison” presentations in preschools, schools, and day care centers throughout Montgomery County, focusing on pre-k and kindergarten students.
        • The emphasis of this sub-team is to provide parents with information about the accidental poisoning of young children by educating the children and their parents about poisonous household products that can be found in most homes. Members visit schools and day care centers and entertain the children with an educational program about “Yucky” products and “Yummy” products.  The students are taught to “Always Ask” before drinking or eating any unknown substances.
  • Assault Survivor Kits® – was created in 1994. The goal is to help make the lives of assault and trauma survivors a little more bearable by providing them with “kits” containing new clothing, toiletries, and comfort items while they are receiving care in hospital emergency rooms. Because the survivors’ clothing is often kept as evidence or has been destroyed in an accident or soiled due to illness, having a change of clothes and a few hygiene items becomes a critical necessity during this vulnerable time of their lives.
  • Fans for Friends – was begun in 1997. This program was developed to serve Montgomery County’s economically-disadvantaged senior residents by providing box fans in the summer and blankets in the winter.  In 2013, the program was expanded to serve any economically-disadvantaged individual in the county who needed a fan or a blanket.
  • Passport for Good Health™ – was approved as a program in 1997. It is designed to provide useful “passport” booklets for recording immunizations, medical information, and prescription medicines, etc., in two editions:  one for children and one for seniors.  Also, in a local hospital, economically-disadvantaged parents are surprised with a layette containing delightful new clothing for their newborn to wear home from the hospital.
  • Scholarship – our second largest program. Approved as a philanthropic program in 2006 in honor of a gift from the James D. Nunan Estate, scholarshis were first awarded to Montgomery County high school seniors who planned to enroll in a four-year Texas college or university and major in the social sciences or a “helping” profession.  The program has grown so that currently scholarships are available for graduating high school seniors, adults needing to return to education to better their quality of life, adults needing certification courses, and mentally- or physically-challenged individuals for therapeutic programs.  Since inception of the Scholarship Program in 2006, over $1,000,000 has been given to well-deserved students.
  • Tender Loving Care Dolls – was originally a part of Assault Survivor Kits and became a separate program in February 2006. This program provides creatively-handcrafted, huggable dolls to counselors who use the dolls as tools to encourage children to express their feelings during difficult times. The dolls are creatively dressed in handmade clothes, with the dolls’ hair carefully woven in a variety of colors.  The dolls are crafted in such a way that one side has a smiling face, and the other side has a sad face.  This provides the counselors with a tool to encourage children to begin to express their feelings during difficult times, whether they feel happy or whether they feel sad.  The dolls are also used as “comfort dolls” for grief counseling and in hospice summer camps for children.  Some are even distributed to nursing homes and organizations whose adult patients suffer from dementia and other mental illnesses and can benefit from having a doll for comfort and counseling.
  • Pass It On – was approved in 2010. The program provides a process for sending unsold, unused, or excess items from our thrift shop or programs to various community 501(c)(3) social service agencies for use by their clients.
  • Caring and Sharing – the newest philanthropic program, begun in 2013. For the disadvantaged residents of Montgomery County, Caring and Sharing encourages the residents by helping to provide for their basic needs and offer encouragement and hope for moving out of the circle of poverty.  “Welcome Home” baskets containing toiletries, paper products, cleaning supplies, and numerous other items are the delight of economically-disadvantaged residents who receive the baskets through local agencies when the residents move from homelessness to a home for the first time. A much-needed and ever-growing new addition to this program is the provision of snacks for hungry school children during the school day.  Students have a much better chance at succeeding in school if their bellies are full. A number of other activities are provided through the Caring and Sharing Program to aid in the wellbeing of residents in community programs.

As in its beginnings in 1985, the current 180+ all-volunteer organization continues to transform the lives of children and adults in Montgomery County.  Thirty-eight years of “Our Story” have been written and published in the archives of Assistance League of Montgomery County.  However, we have only just begun to make the difference we want to make in the lives of the residents of our community.  There remain more students to clothe, more families to feed, and more students who need help to further their education and better provide for themselves and their families.

We at Assistance League of Montgomery County are committed to continuing our legacy of making a difference; and we know that when we touch one life, there is a ripple effect.   As the quote goes, “Our good works are like stories cast into the pool of time; though the stones themselves may disappear, their ripples extend to eternity.”  (Author unknown)

Just consider the ripple effect of the more than 900,000 lives we have already touched since our beginning – and more still to come.  The ripples will extend to eternity.  Ponder that!