BACK TO SCHOOL – ALREADY????

At the supermarket this morning I saw a whole display of notebooks, pens, and rulers with a sign, “Back to School Supplies!” And it’s only the beginning of August. Don’t these poor kids get any summer breaks any more? Even if you like the year-round school idea, it sure doesn’t seem like they got much of a summer vacation.

ALI has actually been in “Back to School” mode for several weeks now. Operation School Bell, our largest program, starts up when the schools open in September. OSB provides school clothing and school supplies to income-qualified students in the Irvine Unified School District. There’s a lot of prep work that goes on behind the scenes. We make up a packet of instructions and applications for each school in the district. We schedule dates for “Meet and Greets” with families, and for shopping days at Target. Then we have a whole team of people, including teenagers from our Assisteens auxiliary, who purchase backpacks and school supplies, and assemble hygiene kits for each child (plastic bags with shampoo and other personal care items). We also start our BOOK DRIVE, asking for donations of books from the IUSD grade-level reading lists, so that each child can pick out a book to take home. When the families arrive at our Community Outreach Center (upstairs from the thrift shop) for the first “Meet and Greet,” we’ll have everything ready for them!

If you’d like to contribute to OSB, you can write a check to ALI and either drop it off at the thrift shop, or mail it to us at 2452 Alton, Irvine, CA 92606. Include a note that it is for Operation School Bell. To donate a book, you can drop off new, age-appropriate books at the thrift shop as well. Thrift shop hours are 10 am – 3 pm Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday, or 10 am to 5:30 pm on Friday.

Help Us Celebrate 25 Years!

FullSizeRender 25 years ago (way back in 1990), members of the Assistance League of Irvine had an idea. Many of these members were teachers or retired teachers, and they believed that the arts had a vital place in children’s lives. They knew, firsthand, that many children who might not be top students academically, blossomed when they were able to express their creativity. And they wanted a way to recognize these young artists and let them know their talents were special.

This was the start of ALI’s “Young Masters Art Show!” It’s a FREE family event that has grown over the past 25 years to include over 500 pieces of children’s art, hands-on craft activities for kids, refreshments, and entertainment by award-winning Irvine high school music groups. This year it will be held on SATURDAY MAY 2 in the Irvine Civic Center Plaza from 1 to 4 pm. It’s the ONLY event of its kind in all of Orange County!

Irvine Unified School District art specialist teachers have select one piece of art from every K – 6 classroom in the district to be showcased at Young Masters. It’s amazing to see the incredible creativity of these students – you just know many of them will have careers as professional artists.

This year our craft stations will include Clay Creations, decorating picture frames, painting mini-flower pots, and – a Selfie booth! Face painting and balloon creations will be back by popular demand.

The entertainment will feature the Irvine Elementary Honor Choir, the Irvine High Jazz Ensembles, and the Woodbridge High Percussion Ensemble (consistently ranked as one of the best high-school percussion groups in the nation). You’ll be amazed at how talented THESE kids are, too.

Join us on Saturday to help make our 25th Young Masters the best celebration of all! See you there!

14 amazing hammocks you need to nap in…

Summer is well on its way and the warm outside is calling your name. Hammocks are a relaxing way to chill and enjoy all that nature has to offer. Pick up a book, play some music, put your feet up and fall back into these hammock ideas. Happy resting!

 Click here for more Hammock inspiration. All photos via PINTEREST

SAVE THESE DATES FOR “I HEART OC GIVING DAY” – “THIRTY HOURS TO GIVE WHERE YOUR HEART LIVES”

 

 

Set your alarm for 6:00 a.m. on Tuesday, April 21. That’s the start of the Orange County Community Foundation’s “Day of Giving” for 2015. The Foundation’s goal is to raise $2MM in 30 hours (6 :00 a.m. on April 21 to noon on April 22) for local non-profits who are participating in this event. Assistance League of Irvine is proud to be one of the organizations in Orange County participating in this effort. If you’re not familiar with the OCCF, this foundation has been actively working in Orange County for the past 25 years and has awarded over $257MM to local charities to help meet the needs of our county.

ALI will not only have the benefit of your donations made to us in connection with the Day of Giving – we’ll be eligible for “bonus prizes” to be awarded by the Foundation! There are 78 available cash prizes in categories from how much money you raise as a percent of total donations, to the non-profit with the most “likes,” comments, or retweets on social media. Of course we’d LOVE to win one of these prizes!

How to donate? We’ll have a link to the “Day of Giving” website on our own website, Facebook page, and this blog starting April 13. All you’ll have to do is CLICK HERE – follow and watch for updates!

Please SHARE the news about “I Heart OC Giving Day” with your friends and neighbors. This is an event that impacts all of Orange County, not just Irvine. The more people who participate and donate during this 30 hours, the more everyone benefits. Spread the word, and open your heart and your wallet on April 21.

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Blog readers – Help Us Win Free Advertising and continue helping the community!

we-need-your-voteThe Orange County Register is giving away $2MM in FREE ADVERTISING to non-profits! HELP US WIN some of this free advertising!

We’re competing with many other non-profits for a share of these advertising dollars in the Register’s annual “Golden Envelope” contest. With our goal to return at least 67% of our revenue back to the community, our advertising budget is very small. And we don’t have to tell you that newspaper ads are expensive. More money to spend on ads in the Register (at no cost to us!) would really help us tell our story to the community, showcase our philanthropies, recruit new members, and bring more shoppers (and donations!) to the Thrift Shop. But we need your help!

All you have to do is VOTE for Assistance League of Irvine to win. You can vote once a day between now and the end of the contest on March 31. And we’re making it so easy to vote!  Just CLICK HERE to vote and then click on the big CHECK MARK. That’s all you have to do!

Every vote counts, and we sincerely appreciate your votes. Tell your friends – tell your neighbors – and help us win!

 

It’s Just Coffee

You’ve probably seen ads for a local matchmaking service called “It’s Just Lunch.” Prospective matches meet for lunch at a local restaurant and hopefully, get to know each other enough to see if they’d like to go on another date. It’s informal, convenient, inexpensive, and doesn’t take up the whole day – it’s just lunch!

ALI would like to be matched up with some new people, too! We KNOW there are many of you out there who would love to get to know us better and perhaps join our chapter. To keep things even simpler than a lunch date, we’re sponsoring “COFFEE AND A TOUR” on Saturday, March 7.

JOIN US AT 10 AM at our Community Outreach Center/Thrift Shop, 2452 Alton Parkway in Irvine (between Von Karman and Jamboree) for coffee and a presentation about our philanthropic activities. Learn how Assistance League of Irvine turns second-hand treasures from our Thrift & Gift Shop into community giving, through scholarships, clothing and school supplies for Irvine students, and much, much more. You’ll have a chance to meet some of our members, enjoy a delicious cup of coffee, take a tour of our Thrift Shop, and even do some shopping!

For more information, RSVP by March 1 to: 949-798-5020, or email: membership@irvine.assistanceleague.org. We’ll see you then – and bring a friend!

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OUR VISION OF IRVINE’S FUTURE

BrightFutureEvery organization has a vision of what they want to accomplish, and Assistance League of Irvine is no exception. Since you’re reading this blog, you’ve probably shopped at our thrift store and know something about our programs. But you probably (unless you’re a member!) don’t know our actual Vision Statement, which defines and explains our goals. It is:

“Assistance League of Irvine envisions a community where all individuals and families are empowered to achieve their full potential through access to education, the arts, and human services.”

Those words “access to education” led to ALI’s newest philanthropic program: Prep for Success. We’re partnering with Comprehensive College Prep in Laguna Hills to offer at least 20 need-based scholarships to high school juniors in the Irvine Unified School District who need financial help to pay for SAT/ACT test prep classes.

Most four-year colleges and universities require SAT or ACT test scores as part of their application. In recent years, as college admissions have become more competitive, “test prep” classes have become routine for families who can afford them. These classes familiarize the student with the type of questions on the tests, and let them take practice exams.   A student who has taken a “test prep” class is likely to do better on the SAT or ACT, and in the world of college admissions, a higher score helps. Perhaps the most important point is that students who take these classes start to think of themselves as college-bound. For students whose families have significant financial hardship or are the first in their family to go to college, “test prep” classes put them in a group of peers who see college as a desirable, and achievable, goal.

“We want to level the playing field for all students in the Irvine Unified School District by helping them to better prepare themselves for admission to a four-year college or university,” explains Dr. Annelle Arthur, ALI’s Vice President of Philanthropy.

So when you next visit our thrift shop, remember that YOU’RE helping us to create this new program – and to make our vision of the future a reality!

YOUR THRIFT SHOP DOLLARS AT WORK!

TargetCartsAuthor Marta Mahoney,  Assistance League of Irvine Member

All you faithful thrift shoppers have been buying up a storm! We know what you’ve been doing with all those tops, pants, housewares, and toys you’ve been buying. But we thought YOU’D like to know what WE’VE been doing with the money from our thrift shop sales over the past couple of months.

We’ve been spending your dollars on our annual “Operation School Bell” philanthropy, which kicks off at the start of every school year. (You may have been at the shop during one of our OSB “Meet & Greets,” and seen families with exuberant school-age kids heading upstairs to our 2nd floor community resource center to meet with our OSB committee.) Operation School Bell provides school clothing and school supplies to low-income students in the Irvine Unified School District, from pre-K through 12th grade. We’ve been helping qualified IUSD students through OSB since 1990.

Every child is allocated a set amount of money to purchase school clothing, on a sliding scale from $75 to $125 depending on grade level. Families come to a “shopping event” at our partner retail store, Target North on Jamboree and Irvine Blvd., to pick out their clothing, and ALI pays Target when they check out. Target provides us with an additional 5% off every transaction for using our Target Redcard, and also extends us a tax exempt status discount.

At the introductory “Meet & Greet,” each student gets a backpack, school supplies, a set of personal care items, and an age-appropriate book to take home. Each family with school-age kids receives a dictionary, and our littlest pre-K people get to pick out a stuffed animal. We also provide parents with information on other resources for low-income families, such as vision care, dental care, the 211 resource guide, and our own scholarships for Irvine Valley College and SAT test prep for high-school students. And we give each family member a $5 gift card to our thrift shop – because everyone should have something new and fun from the thrift store for back-to-school!

NOW FOR THOSE STATISTICS – YOUR SHOPPING DOLLARS AT WORK!

We’ve clothed 662 children since August, when the year-round schools started. All the money for these 662 kids came from YOUR thrift shop purchases. Shoppers, that’s a lot of $5 tops and pants! We appreciate every one of you who supports our shop and helps us get these students ready for a successful school year.

Our newest gift idea!

iStock_000009799796MediumDid you know that the ALI thrift shop has GIFT CERTIFICATES? These come in $5 denominations and are a perfect solution for those situations where you need an affordable gift. Like these:

  1. You belong to a Bunco group where everyone has to bring a token door prize to award during the evening.
  2. Your 8th grade daughter wants to have a sleepover birthday party, and you need party favors.
  3. The kid down the street, who has been sleeping on his parents’ couch ever since he graduated from college five years ago, because he’s “writing a screenplay,” finally moves into an apartment, and you want to give him something to send him on his way. (You give his parents a bottle of champagne, however.)
  4. You’re the church youth group advisor/band mother/drill team chaperone or some other type of adult volunteer for a high-school group, and need a unisex-type gift or prize for the kids, that isn’t food.

See how easy this could be? Just visit the thrift shop and tell the cashier you want to buy some GIFT CERTIFICATES. (And while you’re at the shop, reward yourself with a little something, too!)

ALI RECEIVES AWARD AT CITY HALL

041605810456467_10151867185532255_4859917203299874926_nAssistance League of Irvine was honored on May 31st by the Irvine Prevention Coalition and Irvine Community Drug Prevention. We were one of three groups and 15 individuals receiving awards at City Hall for outstanding work in support of Irvine youth.

ALI was nominated by Susan Holt, a school social worker who coordinates the Irvine Family Resource Program. In her nomination, Susan wrote: “The Assistance League has provided basic needs support through their Operation School Bell Program for decades, assisting low income students to be ready to learn by providing backpacks, school supplies and clothing to needy families in IUSD. Over the last few years, they have gone above and beyond OSB by making additional funds available to help some of our especially challenged K-12 students with graduation costs, bus passes to get to school, additional clothing and gift cards for extra school supplies. For these students, even getting to school can be a challenge. The help provided by AL funds helps them feel more prepared and ready to move forward with their education. It is hard to describe what a difference these supports make for homeless kids who may also be dealing with extreme family problems and financial pressures, personal challenges, multiple moves, and housing and food insecurity.”

The Irvine Prevention Coalition was formed in 1995 to bring together resources and services to support children, youth, and families. Today there are over 60 community partners participating in the coalition. Their mission is to support a safe and caring community by working together to provide prevention strategies and coordinated services designed to reduce substance abuse, violence and related problems among our youth.   Preventive strategies take many forms – education about drug and alcohol abuse, encouragement of healthy lifestyles, and giving young people the tools to be successful in school and life without drugs.

We are honored to be recognized for Operation School Bell. But we couldn’t provide everything we give the kids through OSB without the continued support of our thrift store shoppers and donors! Thank you!