Established 1993

Operation School Bell® is the signature philanthropic program of Assistance League. San Jose’s Operation School Bell began in 1993 with a very small budget of $1500 that allowed us to fit 50 children at one school with uniforms. Halfway through the year, the program received a donation of $1500 from an anonymous donor. With that amount we went back to the school and gave each child either a school jumper or a pair of pants.

The second year we were able to budget for, and furnish uniforms for 250 students in three schools. Each year the program has grown and now we have a budget of over $100,000 and during the 2019-2020 school year we provided uniforms plus socks to over 6,000 students in 39 low-income elementary schools in San Jose.  Most of these students received two uniforms.

Assistance League of San Jose is always looking for ways to improve this program, and we will be doing so again next fall. As background, a uniform consists of a shirt and a pair of long pants. We have always given out white shirts, which are acceptable at all schools.  In response to requests from some schools, next fall, in addition to white shirts, we will also be providing hunter green and navy blue shirts.

Every member of our chapter is required to participate in Operation School Bell and there are many different options open to everyone, from sorting and bagging uniforms to delivery of the uniforms to the schools we serve.

After members have sorted more than 29,000 pants, shirts and socks by size and bagged 2 pairs of pants, 2 shirts, and 2 pairs of socks in each bag, the packaged uniforms are stored at a local school. After Assistance League members measure the students, they will return to the storage room to collect and deliver the new uniforms to the designated school. Each student is measured to ensure a good fit.

For parent Dinora Nieves, Operation School Bell is heaven-sent. Her son Saul, 7, received a free uniform through the program. Saul, a second-grader, stands ramrod straight in his navy slacks and his spotless white polo. He says it makes him happy to wear his uniform.

“As a teacher, I saw the end result to the uniform program and I wanted to be part of that.”

–Nada Joy Gleason