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Operation School Bell gets students clad for class

Assistance League provided $80,000 for this year’s program
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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A group of Placer County children got some much-needed support Thursday. The non-profit Assistance League of Greater Placer hosted Operation School Bell from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Kmart on the corner of Bell and Highway 49 in North Auburn. The program donated a total of $80,000 to area children whose families were not able to buy new clothes for school. “We feel strongly that children feel better about themselves when they are dressed like the other children in the classroom and not wearing hand-me-downs,” said Suzanne Ross, former Assistance League president. “And we feel they perform better when they feel better.” Operation School Bell begins in about 80 schools and Head Start programs of Placer County each year. Parents inquire about getting their children involved, and then school officials measure the needs of different families. Schools then approve specific children for the program. The Assistance League donates money according to a tiered system based on age. The children enrolled in Head Start programs through lower grades of elementary school are given the smallest amount, because their clothing is cheaper. Those in high school are given the most money, because their clothes cost the most. The Assistance League has been hosting Operation School Bell for about 10 years. This year the organization was given a $25,000 grant from the United Auburn Indian Community specifically for this program. Best Buy donated $5,000, and $6,000 was donated by the Placer Community Foundation. The remaining $44,000 was raised through other donations, events and proceeds from the Assistance League’s Auburn thrift shop located at 1263 U.S. Highway 49 in Fiddler Green Plaza. Although this money helps many local children in need of clothing, Ross said more funds would be needed for this type of program to continue year-round. “The more money we have, the more children we can clothe,” she said. Unfortunately, the need usually exceeds what we are able to do. We can only do it once (a year) … There’s a need that goes on throughout the year.” Still, a large number of children and parents flocked to Kmart Thursday to claim their donations and shop for clothing. Auburn resident and mother Susie Cassidy said the program is extremely important to her family. “It’s a good program, because it helps us out when we’re in need,” Cassidy said. “Especially with school shopping, it gets us ready for winter. This program helps those who can’t afford shopping period.” Cassidy was shopping with her three daughters ages 9, 12 and 14. Alaina, 12, said it is really nice of the Assistance League to host the program, because it helps those children whose parents may be unemployed. Auburn resident and mother Wendey Bast said this program helps her, as a single mother, be able to purchase new clothing for her children. “We’re low-income and struggling,” Bast said. “Otherwise I wouldn’t be able to buy school clothes for my kids. It’s the most wonderful thing. I’ve been a single mom for quite awhile and stuff like this really helps.” Bast’s 13-year old son, Jacob Sanchez, said the program helps him avoid wearing the same clothes year after year. “Usually this stuff is really expensive,” Jacob said. “When we come (to Kmart) we have $100 to spend, and we don’t have to keep wearing the same clothes over and over.” The Assistance League is hosting four more shopping days this year. Parents wishing to sign up their children for Operation School Bell should inquire in their children’s schools at the beginning of the school year. The Journal’s Bridget Jones can be reached at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com or comment at Auburnjournal.com. -------- How to donate Donations for the Assistance League are accepted year-round and can be mailed to PO Box 4693, Auburn, CA 95604. For more information call (530) 885-1982.