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.