Imagine not having the clothes to dress appropriately for an ordinary school day—not a great picture. Now, imagine what a gift it would be to shop for and purchase your very own new school clothing. That is what happens for almost 5,000 Montgomery County students each year because of the Operation School Bell Program.

Operation School Bell is the signature program of National Assistance League, as well as every chapter of Assistance League across the nation.  Through the collaborative efforts of our Assistance League chapter and local department and other stores, smiles become more prevalent for some Montgomery County students in Pre-K through high school who receive new clothes and other supplies that will help them stay in school through Operation School Bell.

A high percentage of the enrollment in Montgomery County schools is economically disadvantaged, and their families have inadequate resources to meet the needs of their children.  That’s when Operation School Bell takes over and holds shopping events at local stores for disadvantaged students who have been referred by Montgomery County school counselors.  This most rewarding experience brightens the day of not only the students receiving the clothes, but also the Assistance League members who assist with the shopping experience; and since the need for new clothes never goes away, school counselors may refer students for emergency assistance throughout the school year.

Besides providing new school clothes, books are donated to school libraries and classroom teachers’ libraries; and in-school reading opportunities and literacy events are held throughout the school year.

Over 85,000 students have received new school clothing in the 36 years Assistance League of Montgomery County has been involved in Operation School Bell.

The Poison Information – Always Ask Program was developed to educate young children about poisonous products that can be found in most homes.  Volunteers visit public and private Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten classrooms throughout Montgomery County, as well as county libraries and daycare facilities.  They entertain the children with an educational program about “Yucky” products and “Yummy” products.  The program is also presented to adults.

The volunteers tell a story, play a game, and sing a song—all done in a fun way but with a serious message. Children are taught to “Always Ask” before drinking or eating any unknown substances.  Once a child learns to “Always Ask” and shares this message with his/her family, tragedies are prevented and lives can be saved.

Recently this Program expanded to include a “COVID-safe” video of the entire presentation, available to teachers in both English and Spanish.