How to beat the high cost of college

college

By Marta Mahoney

We knew we’d pull you in with that headline, readers. As anyone who’s sent a kid to college knows, the big-ticket items – tuition, books, room and board – are just the tip of the iceberg. It’s all those little things that add up – like outfitting a dorm room or apartment.

‘College dorm room’ seems to have become a completely new merchandise category at the major department stores, with good reason. In 2012, Bloomberg finance estimated the average cost of setting up a dorm room was approximately $900 (in 2012!). And if your student is moving into an apartment, the cost will be even higher.

This is where shopping at the ALI thrift store can really help you stretch your dollars. It’s also a good way to show your student how to work within a budget. Give them a set amount to cover their dorm or apartment furnishings. Let them figure out what items they want to buy new (the bed-in-a-bag in the latest trendy color) and which ones they could look for at the thrift shop (cookware, a bath mat, a popcorn popper). Chances are they’ll end up with everything they wanted for their dorm room, with money left over for some of those OTHER miscellaneous expenses of college life.

It’s back to school time. Are you ready?

Back_to_school

By ALI Volunteer, Marta Mahoney

I was a little stunned this past week when I realized stores are featuring “Back to School” merchandise and “Back to School” sales. (And one local retailer, who shall be nameless, is already showing Halloween items!) Since I’m still putting away my 4th of July decorations, “Back to School” wasn’t remotely on my radar.

But it’s obviously on everyone else’s radar, and that means – it’s time to hit the ALI thrift shop!

Every kid wants new clothes for school, and the thrift shop helps you stretch your back-to-school budget. You can buy an entire outfit for a fraction of what you’d spend at a department store!

“Back to School” at ALI also means it will soon be time for Operation School Bell, one of our signature philanthropies. Operation School Bell provides school clothing and supplies at the start of every school year to low-income families in Irvine public schools. Last year we clothed over 800 students in pre-K through the senior year of high school. So if you buy some of your “Back to School” clothes at the thrift shop, you’re not only helping your own family, but someone else in your community as well!

And while you’re doing your “Back to School” shopping, don’t forget our annual Book Drive, which is going on right now. We’re collecting donations of new or very gently-used books so that we can give each of our OSB students an age-appropriate book to read, along with their school supplies.   You can drop off book donations (or cash donations for this program) at the thrift shop any time that the shop is open.

And if your kids try on last year’s school wardrobe and they’ve outgrown everything – we’re always looking for donations!

YOUNG MASTERS ART SHOW IS COMING!

image-3I know we’re always telling our blog readers to “Save the Date,” but this is a really SPECIAL date to put on your calendar now. SATURDAY, MAY 2 is the 25th annual Young Masters Art Show, sponsored by Assistance League of Irvine in the Irvine Civic Center Plaza from 1 to 4 pm. This is a FREE family event with hands-on craft activities, refreshments, and a fantastic art exhibit featuring over 500 pieces of children’s art.

Irvine Unified School District art specialist teachers select one piece of art from every K – 6 classroom in the district to be showcased at Young Masters, and these young students are SO talented. The art will stay on display in the lobby of City Hall through May 14, but you have to be there MAY 2 for everything else!

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.

Don’t miss the entertainment, which 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).

Art, crafts, music – what better way to spend an afternoon? Bring the whole family and we’ll see you on May 2!

The amazing donors of Team Stone Creek

donation-pick-upWe have thrift shop donors . . . and then we have thrift shop donors. Today we want to tell you about some truly amazing donors! They are called Team Stone Creek, and they’re a student service club of 4th, 5th, and 6th graders at Stone Creek Elementary School in Woodbridge.

At the beginning of the school year, the kids, along with their faculty advisors Mike Clarke, John Hernandez, and Shelley Nishikawa, brainstormed suggestions for service projects. They came up with the idea of a clothing drive to benefit the ALI thrift shop, since they thought most families have old clothing they’d be happy to donate to a good cause. Stone Creek School has a special fondness for the Assistance League of Irvine, since Susan Mehrtens, a long-time ALI member (and incoming chapter president for 2014-15) was the school’s principal from 1998 to 2006. The students felt our thrift shop would be a worthy recipient for their donations.

The 4th graders created a flyer and sent out an e-mail blast to the community, while the 5th graders made posters advertising the event. The 6th grade was in charge of picking up the donations. The clothing drive was a huge success – they collected almost 60 bags of clothing for ALI!  

These amazing kids also held a food drive at Thanksgiving to benefit Families Forward, and sponsored a book drive last month. Their efforts are one of the reasons Stone Creek was recently ranked as the fourth-best elementary school in Orange County (out of 371 schools) by the Orange County Register.

With students like these, we know the future of Irvine is in good hands. Thank you, Stone Creek Elementary School!

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.