This is one of a collection of stories about philanthropy in Snohomish County.
EVERETT — Stylish jeans, sweatshirts, winter coats, flannel tops and knit hats fill racks and shelves in the headquarters of Operation School Bell. Items are all new, most still with tags. The place looks like a retail clothing store, complete with fitting rooms — but its customers don’t need cash.
“So many kids have only had used clothes and hand-me-downs,” said Carla Hogan, president of Assistance League of Everett. The all-volunteer local nonprofit, with more than 300 members, is one of 120 chapters in the national Assistance League organization. Since 1965, the Assistance League of Everett has been helping local families through several programs.
Operation School Bell, which last school year provided new clothes to 3,768 Snohomish County students from low-income families, is the largest of Assistance League’s philanthropic programs. It operates out of the Assistance League of Everett building at 5107 Evergreen Way, also home to the Assistance League Thrift Shop.
Kids from low-income homes, as many as 60 per day from nearly 20 school districts, are brought by their schools to Operation School Bell. “Each one gets three new outfits,” Hogan said. They also get Payless shoes vouchers for new shoes, new underwear and socks, plus hats and coats.
The nonprofit’s separate Teen Retail Program, in partnership with Fred Meyer stores, provides older students with $125 worth of school-appropriate clothes and shoes, merchandise they pick out during shopping nights. In the last school year, 994 high schoolers shopped through the Teen Retail Program.
In all, over the past year, 4,762 local kids sported new clothing or shoes, thanks to Assistance League.
“Some have never shopped for brand new clothes,” said Nancy Juntwait, a longtime Assistance League member involved in the group’s Kitty Young Auxiliary. She is the thrift shop’s pricing chairwoman.
Also last year, Assistance League provided scholarships to six Everett Community College students, totaling $11,000; gave vouchers to shop at its thrift shop to 69 homeless or very low-income adults served by the Salvation Army or Housing Hope; and donated $200 graduation awards to 178 local high school seniors.
Those awards helped pay for caps and gowns, college applications, yearbooks and other expenses for graduating seniors, said Donna Day, the group’s marketing and communications chairwoman. Juntwait said students from the Northwest Regional Learning Center in Arlington used the Assistance League building for a graduation ceremony.
“Every year there are more kids needing it,” Day said of the graduation award. “To read the applications is just heartbreaking.”
Assistance League of Everett, which is largely a women’s group but includes some men, has two auxiliaries. The smaller groups offer opportunities for teens and those whose schedules are suited to evening or weekend volunteering.
The Kitty Young Auxiliary is made up mostly of career people. In the past year, the Kitty Young group created assault survivor kits, with grooming items, clothing and more, for 108 people affected by violence and trauma. Through its Adopt a School program, the auxiliary has helped schools in need of extra resources.
Assisteens, the other auxiliary, gives students in seventh through 12th grades ways to volunteer. Diane Teske, Assisteens coordinator, said the group includes about 24 students.
“It’s fun,” said Georgia Buchanan, a 13-year-old student at Olympic View Middle School in Mukilteo. Georgia and other Assisteens members made tie-dyed scarves to sell at the recent Holiday Crafters’ Marketplace.
The annual fund-raising bazaar, this year with Happi Favro as chairwoman, was hosted Nov. 4 by the Kitty Young Auxiliary at the Assistance League’s headquarters.
In addition to fund-raising events, money to support Operation School Bell and other Assistance League charitable programs is raised through its thrift shop, estate sales, financial gifts and grants, memorial donations and other contributions.
The estate sales sometimes last several days in a home. Money is raised by splitting proceeds, with 50 percent going to the Assistance League and 50 percent going to the estate. The nonprofit conducts about one estate sale per month; the value of an estate must be at least $6,000, Hogan said.
Another popular Assistance League fund-raiser will happen this week, when five splendidly decorated houses will open their doors for the 2017 Holiday Home Tour. It’s scheduled for 1-7 p.m. Monday, and will include culinary treats prepared by local chefs, raffle baskets, and Santa. Tickets, $30 in advance or $35 the day of event, are available at the Assistance League Thrift Shop and several other sites (see separate box).
Although the group is all-volunteer, many members put in long hours at the thrift shop, which is open Mondays through Saturdays, or helping with Operation School Bell. Students come to the agency from September into February each year.
Looking around the thrift shop, Hogan said the merchandise is constantly changing. “We’re our best shoppers,” Juntwait quipped.
As president, Hogan said she recently volunteered 115 hours in a month. “We have a wide range of ages, with several members over 90,” she said. “There are so many ways to volunteer.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Assistance League of Everett, one of 120 local chapters of National Assistance League, is an all-volunteer nonprofit group that provides new school clothing for families in need through Operation School Bell, Everett Community College scholarships, graduation awards for high school seniors, and vouchers for low-income people to use in its thrift shop. The Assistance League of Everett Thrift Shop is at 5107 Evergreen Way, Everett.
Information: 425-252-3011 or www.assistanceleagueofeverett.org
Holiday Home Tour
Five decorated houses will open their doors for the Assistance League of Everett’s 2017 Holiday Home Tour. It’s scheduled for 1-7 p.m. Monday. There will be treats prepared by local chefs, raffle baskets and Santa. Tickets, $30 in advance or $35 the day of event, are available at the Assistance League Thrift Shop, 5107 Evergreen Way in Everett, or at J. Matheson Gifts in Everett, Stadium Flowers in Everett and Lynnwood, Barbara’s Floral in Mukilteo, and Joy Works in Snohomish. Proceeds will support Operation School Bell and other charitable efforts.