It’s Operation School Bell® time!

Over the next few months, you’ll be hearing a lot about Operation School Bell® when you visit the thrift shop.  ThroughOperation School Bell®, ALI provides school clothing and school supplies to qualifying low-income students in the Irvine Unified School District.  Every year, from the beginning of September up until Thanksgiving, your ALI volunteers donate many hours of their time to OSB. Operation School Bell® is the signature philanthropic program of National Assistance League, and we are proud to be a part of it.

Upstairs from the thrift shop, our community outreach center is full ofOperation School Bell® supplies.  Backpacks, packets of school supplies, and “hygiene kits” containing shampoo and other personal care items, cover every available space! Each child gets to choose an age-appropriate book to take home, and every family gets a dictionary – so we have several full bookcases, too.  Our OSB families purchase their school clothing at our partner store, Target North in the Irvine Marketplace – but everything else is upstairs, waiting for OSB to start!

People are often surprised that we have a need for OSB in Irvine, but we assisted over 800 children last year.  Families apply for OSB through their schools, so if you know of anyone who might be interested in this program, ask them to contact their school nurse or counselor.

Operation School Bell®, like our other philanthropies, is financed by sales from our thrift shop.  Next time you’re shopping with us, remember that you, too, are helping to give some child a better start for the school year. 

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.

No Cuts Here!

It seems lately that whenever we turn on the news, we hear about aid to needy families being reduced.  Congress cuts the food stamp program; extended unemployment benefits are expiring; food pantries have to spread the same amount of food donations among an ever-increasing number of people.   But the help that ALI gives families is one area that’s NOT being cut.  In fact, the total amount we give needy families is going UP, not down.

Operation School Bell is ALI’s largest philanthropic program.  Through OSB, we give school clothing and school supplies to students in need, in the Irvine school district.  Each child receives a backpack, a set of notebooks and pencils, and a sum of money to purchase school clothing and shoes at Target in the Irvine Marketplace, our partner shopping store.

In 2012-13, we clothed 761 OSB kids.  We’re currently in the final stages of our 2013-14 program, and we’ve clothed 816 kids to date, That’s an increase of 55 students – or 7% – and these aren’t the final numbers.  And we’ve been able to do this WITHOUT  lowering the amount of money we allocate for each child.

This is largely due to our generous thrift store shoppers!  We are a completely volunteer organization with no paid staff, and ALL the money we raise from the thrift store goes to support OSB and our other programs in Irvine.

The fact that more families need to reach out to us for help in these tough times, is not a statistic to be proud of.  But we ARE proud of the fact that we’re able – thanks to our generous thrift store shoppers – to meet this growing demand.