ST. GEORGE — The Assistance League of Southern Utah is providing around 1,000 kids with new school clothes this year during their annual “Operation School Bell” event.
The shopping trip is offered to elementary and middle school children identified by their school counselors as being in need.
Elementary-aged children received $85 and intermediate and middle school kids received $110 for their shopping sprees – a $10 increase per child from last year – and the kids are allowed to choose whatever clothing items they like.
“We’ve had counselors say that the children come in the next day and they’re so excited to show off their new clothes,” Assistance League member Jackie Brown said. “We feel that if they look like the other kids, and they’re dressed appropriately, they do better in school.”
In addition to shopping money, kids receive a toothbrush and toothpaste. They are also given a volunteer-made knit or crochet hat.
“They’re so thrilled with these hats it’s incredible. We’ve done it where it’s 105 degrees outside, and these kids will walk out with their hats on,” Brown said. “The kids really get excited about those hats. It’s a riot.”
Operation School Bell provides a number of benefits to children in need and their families. Many low-income families struggle to buy clothes for their kids, and receiving shopping money from the Assistance League allows them to spend their money on other necessities.
“They’re doing a great job,” said 12-year-old Annalyn Collins, who was shopping for new shirts with her mom and brother. “It’s good that they’re doing this because there are some people that can’t afford clothes.”
Annalyn’s mom, Christy Collins, said the opportunity came at a good time, as the family has been struggling since she lost her job in June. With the help of the Switchpoint Community Resource Center, she was able to find a new job and a place to live but won’t receive her first paycheck until the first of October, leaving her with little money to spend on things like clothes.
“I found a new job that pays awesome, and the people are awesome. So it’s just kind of like everything just worked out great, and then they sent me this,” Collins said. “It means a lot to me.”
Troy and Tanycia Johnson said it’s nice to be able to provide new clothes for their growing kids, who often go to school with holes in their jeans.
“They’re boys; they wear clothes out like no tomorrow. Any clothes we’ve bought them have been hand-me-downs,” Troy Johnson said. “So I think it’ll be really good to see them, see their countenance change a little bit, in putting on new clothes and going to school with fresh stuff.”
Operation School Bell is not the only event the Assistance League holds each year. They also provide literacy resources involving reading to children, giving them books and encouraging young parents to read to their kids.
This year, they were also able to provide college or career clothing to the graduating class of Water Canyon High School in Hildale thanks to a grant from the Three Corners Women’s Giving Circle.
“We have a broad mission to improve the lives of kids, and there are a lot of avenues, a lot of different ways to do that,” President Gail Neumann said.
The Assistance League is a volunteer-run organization and relies on donations and grants to fund their operations. The group has several fundraising events coming up, including a give-back event at Habit Burger Grill on Oct. 16; “Groovus,” a jazz concert held at the Electric Theater Nov. 5; and “Tea and Generosity” on Nov. 15.
More information about the Assistance League of Southern Utah and upcoming events can be found online.
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