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Operation School Bell provides clothing for youth in need

Juliana D. Norwood | 9/12/2012, 5 p.m.

While the economy continues to struggle, charitable organizations have become even more of an asset to many families than ever before. The fall season is synonymous with back-to-school, but for many parents who need a helping hand with getting their children prepared for the new school year, Operation School Bell steps in to provide that assistance.

Operation School Bell or OSB provides new school clothes to nearly 5,500 Los Angeles Unified School District students from impoverished circumstances. By working with these children, the organization strives to improve school attendance, promote learning, and enhance self-esteem.

"For the past 45 years, volunteers for Anne Banning Auxiliary (ABA) of Assistance League of Southern California have given underserved and at-risk children new clothing to wear to school through OSB," explained OSB Chairman Debby Berg. "Volunteers provide well-fitting shoes, uniforms, jackets, grooming kits, backpacks and school supplies, offering students a greater chance to succeed."

Students are brought in by their Los Angeles Unified School District counselors for new school clothing based on need. The facility is completely run by volunteers and is generally open Monday through Thursday during the school year. School counselors can call and schedule a time to bring students to the facility. When the students arrive, they are welcomed into an area filled with tables, chairs, games and art supplies.

A volunteer is assigned to each child and the child is taken into an adjacent area where the volunteer fits the child with new socks and shoes. After the new shoes are selected, the child is ushered into the dressing area to try on new school clothes, jackets and jeans. Each child receives enough clothing to wear to school for a week.

"The children who come to the facility are desperately in need of shoes and clothing that fits them and look good on them," said Berg. "For many children, these are the first new clothes that they have seen for a very long time. These children are so excited about their new clothes that many choose to wear the new clothing and new shoes back to school."

Having received their clothing, the child returns to the reception area to select a toy or game to take home, as well as, a book, a backpack and grooming essentials--a brush, toothbrush, soap, shampoo and deodorant. The children then return to their school with the counselor. On special Saturdays throughout the year, OSB opens its doors to the older children who can't miss school and others who are not able to come during weekdays.

Once a month Operation School Bell brings the much-needed services provided at the Hollywood location right to the school steps with its OSB on Wheels program.

The nonprofit brings out the fully outfitted 53-foot trailer, which is equipped with private dressing areas designed for the purpose of outfitting students in a safe and friendly environment. The one-on-one attention the youngsters receive from volunteers helps build self-confidence and makes a visit to OSB a happy experience.

"OSB on Wheels delivers powerful support, bringing clothing and supplies to upwards of 130 children per day and is an efficient response to children in extreme need," said Berg. "And it gets them back to their classroom in a fraction of the time needed for a visit to our Hollywood location."

Each child aboard OSB on Wheels receives a jacket, a pair of new athletic shoes, five pairs of socks, five sets of underwear, polo shirts, school uniforms, a grooming kit, backpack, dictionary, and various school supplies. Children with special needs, or those needing plus-sized clothing, can also be accommodated.

Members of the community can contribute to the organization by donating or volunteering. Only $85 provides one child with an entire week's worth of clothing, and any amount of donation is appreciated.

"You can help us dress our city's most vulnerable children, "said Berg. "We can promise it will be one of the best investments you will ever make. Last year more than 80 percent of every dollar ABA/OSB received provided these services for children."
For more information on Operation School Bell, visit the organization's website at www.operationschoolbell.org.