Organization to help kids dress for school

Assistance League Santa Clarita will give kids in need up to $120 to spend at Old Navy and Payless ShoeSource on items withintheir school's dress code.

When the school year starts this August, administrators and members of the Assistance League Santa Clarita will continue the longstanding tradition of Operation School Bell, a philanthropic program dedicated to helping families in need.

This year, local Assistance League members hope to offer 2,200 children in grades K-12 a voucher that would allow the children and their parents to buy new school clothes and shoes — an opportunity that not everybody gets.

“We hear stories of kids coming to school in the same outfits every day,” said Helen Barlow, the group’s public relations chair. Some have never owned new school clothes and others come to school cold in the winter because they don’t possess a jacket.

“We’re trying to make them feel better about themselves,” because studies have shown that when children are able to dress like their peers, they have better self-esteem, which leads to better school performance and reduced incidents of bullying, Barlow said. This is why children at every public school in the Santa Clarita Valley will have a chance for the voucher, though the decision on who receives it is ultimately made by the principals of the various school sites.

If chosen, the kids and their parents will arrive at Old Navy and Payless ShoeSource on a designated night and have the opportunity to spend between $70 and $120 on clothes, Barlow said. They are allowed to spend the money on anything they want as long as the purchases adhere to the school’s dress code guidelines.

Similar to last year, College of the Canyons students who are active in the RISE program, or Resources for Individual Success in Education, have been invited to participate as well.

“It’s a real rewarding experience” that is done by most by most of 120 Assistance League chapters nationwide, Barlow said. Operation School Bell couldn’t be possible without the community, retail stores and the Assistance League Resale, which is located at 24364 Main St. in Newhall.

The program, which started in 1989, has grown with the club and its store, Barlow said.  “The more the community is familiar with it, (then) the more children we can assist.”

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