When children arrive at Assistance League of Tucson’s Philanthropic Programs Center next to the Assistance League Thrift Shop on Alvernon, they are greeted by volunteers who work one-on-one with each child to provide them with new clothing and an age-appropriate book of their very own. A volunteer helps a child select new clothing that fits and is age appropriate. Each child receives two pairs of shorts or jeans, one hooded jacket, three shirts, six pairs of underwear, six pairs of socks and a gift card to shop at Payless Shoes so they can find shoes that fit and that they really like. Each child chooses a new book at their reading level. The brand new clothes are packed into a reusable blue laundry bag to take home.
We host several dressing days at the JCPenney stores in Tucson where those children who have received vouchers can come to the store to shop for school clothes. At these dressings, our volunteers greet the children and their families; we explain that all clothes bought must be for the child who received the voucher. Each child is given a gift card which we buy from JCPenney at a discounted rate. JCPenney also provides a special register area and checkers who donate their time. All purchases are reviewed by our volunteers to make certain that the items bought are for the student who has received the gift card. In addition each child receives a book of their very own.
Many public schools in Tucson require their students to wear uniforms. Unfortunately, many families cannot afford to purchase the required uniforms. Operation School Bell is here to help! We partner with Fallas National Stores in Tucson by giving students vouchers that can be redeemed for uniforms at the Fallas stores. Each child also receives a Payless gift card for shoes, a hoodie jacket and a book to keep. Every child who participates in Operation School Bell receives an age-appropriate book.
In addition to making sure each child who comes to Operation School receives a book, we also work with three Title I elementary schools and a Title I parent center, Parent As Teachers program (administered through the Sunnyside School District) in four local districts to provide their classrooms with needed books for teaching. This effort, called Hooked on Books, encourages literacy and learning by providing books to schools and programs that serve students with particular needs that might otherwise not be met. An example of this needed service might be a 5th grade classroom that has the study of magnets in their curriculum but has no appropriate books to expand and develop concepts.
The chapter’s community partner in this academic endeavor is Kid’s Center in Tucson. Teachers are given a budget from Assistance League to shop there for the high interest, low vocabulary materials. The teacher can go to Kid’s Center, choose the books, take them to the classroom and be able to more fully complete the job of teaching with books that will inspire their students. These students might include refugees, English Language Learners or emotionally challenged students.
Hooked on Books began in 2002. Since its inception, this program has served approximately 1,400 students annually.
Children in grades K-8 are recommended by teachers, school nurses and principals from schools in the districts of Sunnyside, Tucson Unified School District, Amphitheater, Altar Valley, and Flowing Wells. Children from Southern Arizona Children’s Advocacy Center are also included. Schools we are serving this year.
For each school nurse, we put together an Emergency Hygiene Kit to address those potentially embarrassing moments when a small child does not make it to the bathroom on time. Our kits include clean underwear and socks. We also are including lice treatment supplies in the kits as this is a problem the schools are facing and the kits are too expensive for many families to purchase.
Annually several thousand children receive school clothing; for the number of children we were able to clothe this year, please view By the Numbers. Our member buyers shop for the best values and buy in bulk to keep costs down. The funding for Operation School Bell comes from proceeds of various fundraising activities, our Thrift Shop sales, donations and grants.