There were smiles all around as about 90 children from East Valley elementary schools poured into a Target store with their parents on a recent afternoon to go on a shopping excursion. About 20 women from Sun Lakes are active members of Assistance League of East Valley, an all-volunteer group that raised funds to clothe more than 6,400 schoolchildren last year.
Each child is allowed to spend $90 on school clothes at the dressing events, which are repeated each week throughout the early fall at different Target stores. Assistance League members help them shop and check out. For uniform schools, the organization provides two uniforms each for child in need, along with socks, underwear and shoe cards.
Called Operation School Bell, the program serves children in Tempe, Mesa, Gilbert, Chandler and Kyrene districts.
Funds are raised through the organization’s Thrift Shop, 2326 N. Alma School Road in Chandler, two blocks north of Warner Road. Since moving to the attractive, expanded location a year ago, fundraising has increased exponentially, enough that the group hopes to clothe an extra 1,000 children this year.
The group also raises money through grants, private donations and fundraising events, such as a November 5 Sunset Showdown event at Rustler’s Rooste Steakhouse, 8383 South 48th Street, Phoenix. The $50 tickets will include dinner, music and games and are available at www.assistanceleagueeastvalley.org.
The group will also have a Mardi Gras Casino Night on February 24 at Oakwood Country Club in Sun Lakes.
Vicki Lescoe, family support specialist at Redbird Elementary School in Mesa, said that getting new school clothes makes the children feel special and helps them be successful in school.
“They feel like they fit in better, that they’re not different from the other kids,” she said. “This experience shows them that someone cares about them. The kids are so proud, they can’t wait to come in and show me their new clothes the next day.”
“It’s such a blessing,” said one of the children’s mothers at a recent event, as she hugged an Assistance League member. “You are angels for doing this.”
Assistance League of East Valley has sponsored Operation School Bell since 1989. It’s a national project for 124 Assistance League chapters nationwide. Last year, the local group also provided 4,700 assault-survivor kits to police agencies and shelters, monthly parties for adults at a Tempe adult daycare center, three spelling bees and 14 college scholarships.
The organization welcomes new members as well as donations of any kind. For more information on Assistance League, go to assistanceleagueeastvalley.org or call the Thrift Shop at 480-792-1600. Shop hours are 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.