Since its inception in 1958, National Assistance League’s philanthropic program Operation School Bell® has provided school clothing for over 3.5 million children across the United States. What began as a one-woman effort to provide clothing to disadvantaged children so they could attend school has had a profound effect on children throughout the country.
In the Newport-Mesa chapter, Operation School Bell provides school clothing to over 1,000 Newport-Mesa Unified school district students every year. We work closely with the local school district to identify families that would benefit from our services, from Pre-Kindergarten to 6th grade. We invite families to “shop” at our onsite facility where we have dedicated space filled with new clothing, including sweatshirts, collared shirts, pants, shorts, jumpers, skorts, underwear and socks. Students “shop” for clothing over multiple distribution days in August/September and January providing new clothing at the start of the school year and again mid-year to accommodate growing children. Each student receives a new or donated book and a dental kit containing a new toothbrush, toothpaste and floss. We also provide donated shoes.
In addition, the school district identifies those families needing emergency assistance under the McKinney-Vento Act which guarantees the right to free public education to all CA homeless or transient school-aged children who lack a regular nighttime residence due to loss of housing, economic hardship or similar reason. Providing new clothing, dental kits and books to these students is critical to keeping these students in school without drawing attention to the negative change in their home situation.
Throughout the school year, we also fill clothing requests from our local schools as new children move into the school district. NMUSD elementary schools have come to rely on Assistance League to provide new clothing and dental kits within 1-2 weeks notice.
A signature Philanthropic Program of the Newport-Mesa chapter is our library for pre-K through high school students. Along with receiving uniforms, hygiene kits, water bottles and earbuds, students are provided with a book during Operation School Bell distribution. Given the volume of books we distribute, our chapter recognized the need for a new way to organize our books more effectively to ensure efficiency during distribution and so our students receive an appropriate book for their age and reading level. Spearheaded by Ally Shaw (7th Grade Assisteen), Morgan Ebright (8th Grade Assisteen) and her mom, member Kelly Ebright, Book Brigade was born! Our brigade has created an Accelerated Reader (AR) library for the students and siblings we service. AR is a popular reading program used in public and local schools and libraries. It assigns each book a reading level based on the contents and complexity of the text. It is intended to encourage children to read independently, at their own level and pace. The idea behind AR is that children enjoy reading more when they can select their own books. Each book in our library is now labeled according to its individual reading level. This allows our Operation School Bell students to select books they enjoy and can read successfully. During our August/September Operation School Bell, we distributed over 1,800 books to Newport-Mesa students, many who came into our library and selected a book (or two or three) on their own! Our entire Newport-Mesa chapter is dedicated to our library and works diligently throughout the year with book drives and individual donations to keep our library filled with books for students to choose from. Book Brigade ensures our local students have the ability to select the most appropriate books for themselves as individuals, promoting literacy and fostering a love of reading!
Book Brigade co-founder & 7th grade Assisteen Ally Shaw with the fabulous library created for Operation School Bell.