Since 1979, the core philanthropic effort of the Assistance League® of Greater San Diego has been Operation School Bell (OSB), a national effort to provide quality school clothing to children in grades kindergarten through six whose needs have been identified by school personnel.
Eligible students are those who receive free or reduced price school lunch and whose need for appropriate shoes and clothing interferes with their success in school. Families wishing to participate in OSB are invited to complete an application and return it to school staff who make an appointment with Operation School Bell volunteers to address the student’s needs.
Children travel with their parents or school staff to the Assistance League facility in Hillcrest where they are greeted by members/volunteers who outfit each one with two full uniforms including navy blue pants, shorts, skorts, or jumpers; white polo shirts; a hooded jacket; and underwear and socks in addition to a hygiene kit, a packet of school supplies and equipment, and a brand new book. Each item of clothing is chosen by the child and carefully fitted with the help of an AL volunteer.
While many of our participating children attend schools that encourage uniforms, Operation School Bell funds can also be used by Assistance League members to supply regular school clothes and shoes. For example, the Cajon Valley School District does not require school uniforms so their students in need can be outfitted in appropriate school clothing and shoes at a local Target Store. In addition, representatives from partner schools notify Operation School Bell when children lack appropriate shoes for school. Volunteers meet children and their parent at a Payless Shoe Source to select appropriate school shoes paid for by Assistance League of Greater San Diego.
The cost to fully outfit one child is $100. During the Fiscal Year ending on May 31, 2016, ALGSD outfitted 3,213 children from 70 schools in seven San Diego area school districts. Demand is constantly growing as evidenced by the fact that in the San Diego Unified School District alone, 34,272 students qualified for OSB services based on family income. Assistance League Operation School Bell is 100% staffed by volunteers; as a result, Operation School Bell has virtually no administrative costs and direct costs are also low because volunteers carefully shop for the best values in school clothing.
Operation School Bell operated with a budget of $197,000 during Fiscal Year 2016-2017. Resources needed to fund OSB at its current level come primarily from the proceeds of the Assistance League Thrift Shop located on University Avenue in Hillcrest. An annual Treasure Bazaar and other smaller fundraising events, along with member dues, provide the remaining available funds for Operation School Bell. The number of students served is limited to the amount of the proceeds of these efforts. In order to expand Operation School Bell to reach additional students, Assistance League of Greater San Diego solicits grants from other philanthropic organizations and individuals. Supportive community partners include Price Family Charitable Fund and Mission Bay Women’s Club.