As the New Year has begun–along with a new decade–you may be among the Omahans who have been in a nostalgic, auld-lang-syne mood the past few weeks. As I reflect back over the past year, one event that stands out in my mind is Operation School Bell, held this past fall.
On October 17, 2010, volunteers from the Assistance League of Omaha flooded the Westroads Mall–not to shop, but to give. Posted at various points and registers throughout JC Penney’s, these amazing men and women helped Omaha school children pick out clothing, coats, and shoes – and it was all for free. The children qualified for varying amounts of approximately $55-65 dollars, give or take, based on certain criteria.
As children and parents in droves arrived for their scheduled times to hit the racks, Assistance League volunteers stood patiently by to assist with price checks and locating various departments. Afterwards, parents would find these wonderful women and men at the registers to assist with ring-ups and collect the receipts to reimburse the store. Children averaged three warm, quality outfits each. After their shopping was complete, children were guided to a room filled with coats of every color and size – and plenty of hats and mittens – to chose a warm, well-fitting coat. Finally, the day was topped off with a trip to Payless shoes in the mall, again compliments of the Assistance League.
Hundreds of needy Omaha children were thus prepared for the remainder of the school year and the pending winter months. And, judging by the weather of late, it’s a good thing the Assistance League was there! The children had such fun choosing their favorite items and trying them on – a true shopping experience! These folks truly are a blessing to Omaha. It was an event sweet enough to bring a tear to the eye. These are not your average, everyday volunteers. No, the members of the Assistance League went above and beyond in 2010, as I am sure they always do.
The Assistance League began in Omaha in 1975, as a guild, the website says. In its early years, the League provided sweat suits, socks, and coats to children designated in-need by school staff members. Since then, the organization has served more than 33,000 school age children.
Volunteers staff and manage all programs, using all funds locally. Funding for the agency comes strictly through donations, showing that the whole of Omaha has been stepping up to the plate to provide for our children. Funds come in the form of private gifts, donations, proceeds from fundraising activities, or through the League’s thrift store, Yesterday’s Best. So, if your resolution for this year is to get out and volunteer, or simply undertake a bit of philanthropy, I recommend contacting the Assistance League of Omaha. It will be well worth the effort.
The agency also operates other programs, such as Operation Bear Hug and Operation Recovery, each serving a specific need among students, young parents, or adults, including victims of assault. Several fundraising activities are hosted throughout the year. For more information, call, click, or stop by.
Assistance League of Omaha