Operation School Bell was a ringing success.
The Operation School Bell 5K Run/Walk held on Sunday morning (KHTS, a Platinum Sponsor) raised over $30,000 dollars according to Mel Johnson, President of the Assistance League Santa Clarita.
The Operation School Bell program provides new school clothing, shoes, school supplies and health care kits to eligible Santa Clarita Valley school children in need.
“A lot of these kids have holes in their shoes, they don’t have socks. It’s just an amazing thing to see these kids when you see them at Kohl’s,” said Johnson.
Children are identified by school district personnel, and together with their parents, are invited to shop one evening at Kohl’s department store for appropriate school clothes: pants, shirts, dresses, skirts, blouses, sweaters, jackets, and underwear.
The 150 members of the non-profit Assistance League Santa Clarita are all volunteers who believe children perform better in school when they enjoy a positive self-image.
“It’s all about a self-esteem issue. Wanting to go to school. Keeping children in school. That’s what we’re all about,” said Johnson.
In years past Operation School Bell concentrated on helping elementary school children, but now they’re also helping junior high school kids.
“We’ve just expanded to junior high school because that’s kind of the forgotten group. That’s why you saw so many kids here from the junior high schools. They know who we are. They wanted to kind of give back,” said Johnson.
In fact, Johnson credits the response by junior high school runners for the tremendous success the run/walk had this year. Thirty-two students from Placerita Junior High School, 28 from La Mesa, 20 from Sierra Vista, 13 from Arroyo Seco and one from Rancho Pico all participated.
“The numbers. We’ve always had trouble getting the numbers of people here because there are so many races around. The kids really came through this year,” said Johnson.
Last year, Operation School Bell had enough money to spend up to $75 dollars to clothe 1800 children. Two-hundred of those were junior high school students.
Over the years Johnson says she’s learned a lot about poverty. The downtrodden don’t come from just one race or ethnicity, but their children need mentoring on spending habits.
“It’s really great to see these children kind of blossom. A lot of them don’t have a lot of shopping experience, so we kind of mentor them through the process of that,” said Johnson.
Anne Riggin won 1st Place in the 50-54 age bracket. An elementary school teacher, she says in the past her students have benefited from the Operation School Bell program. She’s a member of the Santa Clarita Runners club which considers the Assistance League one of their pet non-profits to support.
Although the Operation School Bell 5K Run/Walk was meant to raise money solely to clothe school children, the Assistance League Santa Clarita also has other programs to help residents:
They partner with the William S. Hart School District on the Project Prom Program which provides dresses, suits and tuxedoes for students who cannot afford them.
The Assistant League Santa Clarita also has the Family Ties program where once a month members prepare and serve dinner for residents at the Santa Clarita Valley Convalescent Hospital.
They also provide an annual party, complete with live music, dancing and snacks or dinner for the residents of LARC Ranch.
And since 1989, the Teddy Bear Patrol, their first program, has been providing soft, cuddly teddy bears to children who experience traumatic situations.
Santa Clarita Valley residents can always give money to the Assistance League or just simply shop at the Assistance League Resale Shop, 24364 Main Street in Newhall.