600 kids get new school clothes thanks to ‘Operation School Bell’

WASHINGTON CITY — Close to 600 children have received new school clothes this year thanks to the Assistance League of Southern Utah, a nonprofit organization that aids local children in need.

“Operation School Bell” culminated Thursday evening at the Washington City Wal-Mart. Children, parents, caregivers and volunteers lined the aisles in the boys and girls sections in search of new clothes, shoes and accessories.

Participating children were each given $70 to $100 to spend to replenish their wardrobes for the school year.

Jackie Brown, vice president of marketing and communications for the Assistance League of Southern Utah, said “Operation School Bell” is a highly rewarding event to be part of.

“Just interacting with the children and being able to give them a hand up, not a hand out,” Brown said. “To see the excitement that’s generated with these children because they’re able to go out and shop – something that many of them have never done.”

The participants — elementary, intermediate and middle school-aged children — are referred to the program by school counselors.

Since its 2008 establishment, the Assistance League of Southern Utah has helped between 4,000-5,000 children through various philanthropic programs, such as the organization’s literacy program and “Operation School Bell,” Brown said.

“We want them to know we care that they get what they need and that they get an education,” Brown said, “to help them maybe come out of this level of poverty.”

Compared to past years, Brown said, “Operation School Bell” is growing, but the organization can only support as many children as money can be raised to help. The organization is a volunteer-based, 501(c)(3) nonprofit and depends heavily on donations and fundraising efforts.

“We’re getting known a little bit more,” Brown said. “We want the people who may donate to us to see what we do, that we do give back to the community, because we take care of the children in Washington County.”

The Assistance League’s next fundraising event is “Tea and Generosity,” which will take place Nov. 4. Tickets are $30 per person, and admission includes a traditional afternoon tea with finger sandwiches, scones, lemon curd and desserts.

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