WASHINGTON — Assistance League of Southern Utah, a nonprofit organization that helps children in indigent circumstances, provided 45 school-age children and their parents with the opportunity to shop for new school clothes with $70 tax-free at the Washington City Wal-Mart Thursday night.
Operation School Bell, a project Assistance League directs every year to help children living below the poverty level. In 2012, it provided 540 children in Washington County with new clothes, Assistance League member Beverly Sands said.
With about 9,498 kids living below the poverty line within Washington County, Sands said, Operation School Bell is a chance to help the families without consistent jobs who are struggling to provide for their children.
“It’s sad when children go to school without underwear; they don’t have socks, and even some of them are wearing sandals in the winter,” Sands said.
The Assistance League is made up of all volunteers. All money is donated through fundraisers and donations go directly to the children for shopping, Sands said.
Sands shared a story of a man who is currently volunteering with Assistance League. He had no shoes growing up, which prevented him from being able to attend school until someone gave him a pair.
“It made a lasting impression on him and influenced him to join Assistance League,” she said.
Everyone knows a child who does not have as much as another and who can be helped, Sands said.
The Assistance League members want more people to know about them and what they do. Sands said she has visited the chamber of commerce in hopes that when people write in what businesses the budgeted checks will go to, the chamber will consider The Assistance League of Southern Utah.
The Assistance League teams up with Wal-Mart; and the children are recommended by school guidance counselors who identify children in need within the schools.
Children from Riverside and Sandstone elementary schools shopped Thursday at the Washington Wal-Mart.
Samantha Flores brought her 6-year-old boy and 20-month-old girl shopping.
Being able to get clothes for her son, who has really needed them, is nice, Flores said.
“It’s really tough with two kids to get them what they need, so its nice to have extra help,” she said.
Operation School Bell has been a great help with the struggling economy, Flores said.
The experience of letting the children shop rather than giving them clothes allows them to find something that they want to wear, Sands said.
“The smiles are amazing,” she said. “They love it and some of the kids have never had new clothes; some were homeless; some were living in a car with their parents. It’s amazing to watch them buy something with the tags still on the clothes.”
With the Assistance League and Operation School Bell, the results are visible, Sands said.
“I hate donating money and wondering if its going to the cause or not,” she said. “When I see a group that is all volunteers and come from incredible talent and then use that talent when serving the children, that’s important. The children are who we have to serve.”
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