Since 1994, Operation School Bell has provided new, age-appropriate school clothing to underserved children in the Tucson area. The recipients, who come from families in extreme need, are selected by school administrators, teachers, and counselors at their respective schools or agencies. We contract with 5 school districts and a few residential agencies.
During the pandemic when schools were closed, we restructured our distribution model for Operation School Bell to assure that all referred children would receive new school clothing so they could return to their classrooms with dignity and renewed hope. Many of the schools we serve require uniforms while others do not, so we use different approaches for each type of school.
Our Hooked on Books program provides books for the children who participate in Operation School Bell, so every child starts the school year with new school clothes and improved access to books.
Funding for Operation School Bell comes from revenues from our Thrift Shop, monetary donations and grants. School principals and representatives report that the new clothing contributes to the children’s sense of self-worth, aiding their academic performance.
For a listing of schools and agencies served this year, please refer to our Annual Report.
About half of the Tucson public schools served by Operation School Bell require their students to wear uniforms. Under our new model, we provide vouchers to school staff to distribute to those children in greatest need. Parents and school liaisons/representatives then bring the children to one of our scheduled distribution events at our Philanthropic Programs building on N. Alvernon Way in Tucson; there they may choose a backpack, 3 sets of new uniforms (pants/skorts and tops), a hoodie, underwear, socks, and shoes. When the children arrive, they are welcomed by our volunteers who work with them to assure that they select properly-sized clothing and a well-fitting pair of athletic shoes.
Operation School Bell also serves schools that do not require the children to wear uniforms. Children are selected by representatives from participating schools/agencies to receive vouchers, which can be redeemed at one of the Target Events scheduled throughout the year. These events occur on designated days during non-business hours. Each voucher entitles the bearer to purchase $100 of school clothing and shoes. Operation School Bell volunteers are present to greet the children when they arrive, and to assist with check out at the registers once they have made their clothing selections.