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A helping hand

Assistance League’s Operation School offers free clothing to students in need

Posted: October 10, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: October 10, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Sales associate Noel Grob, center, and Assistance League volunteer Mary Ann Germek, right, help ring up clothes for Sonia Lopez, 5, after she and her mother Sonia Estrada shop at Kohl's in Valencia on Tuesday.

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Helping hundreds of young students into new clothes and new shoes each year, the Assistance League’s Operation School Bell is in full swing.

Tuesday marked the annual visit to Kohl’s, with participating families lining up outside the store around 5:30 p.m. After entering the store, the families are given a $75 gift certificate that must be used for back-to-school clothes. The families are also handed a $25 gift card for Payless Shoes.

“It’s a great thing that they do for us,” said Newhall School District Superintendent Marc Winger. “And when you see the kids receiving the stuff — their faces just light up.”

More than 1,800 students were helped last year through Operation School Bell, which takes place for several months at the start of the school year. This year, the goal is to help 2,000 students with the program.

However, the organization helps Santa Clarita Valley families throughout the nonprofit’s calendar year, which runs from September to June.

“We do all of this now, but we also help kids throughout the year if they’re in need,” said Christina Schultz, spokeswoman for the Assistance League, mentioning clothes and shoes as two of the biggest needs that are met year-round.

The schools select which children are eligible for the program, with most schools selecting from their lists of students who participate in the free lunch program.

“The next day, the boys and girls are running up to office staff, teachers and administrators and showing them their new shoes and clothes,” said Tammi Rainville, principal of Newhall Elementary. “It certainly makes them feel more prideful and feel more prepared for success in school.”

The Santa Clarita chapter of the Assistance League is also hosting a Sunset in the Vineyard wine-tasting fundraiser Nov. 4 at a private home in Newhall.

“Our No. 1 fundraiser is our (Assistance League Thrift Shop) in Newhall (on Main Street),” Schultz said. The store provides funding for the gift certificates, she said.

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