“No child should have to miss school because they don’t have clothing or necessary supplies.”
That is the belief of Assistance League Tulsa, an all-volunteer nonprofit dedicated to transforming the lives of children and adults through community programs like Operation School Bell.
In 2019, the program provided new clothing, hygiene items and books to more than 25,000 students across 108 schools and 12 area school districts.
Volunteers begin outreach to student families through school counselors in the month after school is back in session. In September students shop for new clothing at AL Tulsa or receive vouchers to shop at Walmart — a process students and volunteers thoroughly enjoy, says OSB Chairwoman Julie Burton.
However, this year OSB will receive clothing orders electronically and deliver items directly to the schools. Burton says volunteers will wear personal protective equipment, and no more than 10 volunteers will prep orders per shift.
Though the process will likely go faster since students don’t have to try on clothing on site at AL Tulsa, Burton says volunteers will miss seeing the excitement on kids’ faces when they see themselves in the mirror.
“We’re asking our members who typically volunteer but are still kind of nervous about being around (other volunteers) to write personal notes for the kids to let them know that we missed them and we’re thinking about them,” she says.
OSB and AL Tulsa partners Emergency Infant Services, Mental Health Association Oklahoma and LIFE Senior Services, receive funding from AL Tulsa primarily through the organization’s Bargains Thrift Shop, 5350 E. 31st St., which has been closed since March.
Run entirely by volunteers, Bargains sells gently used items donated by Tulsans. Fortunately, Yolanda Taylor, AL Tulsa president, says the nonprofit is still in the position to help Tulsa students in a year that will likely hold many extra challenges due to the pandemic.
“I think anytime you can make a child happy or make a child smile, and feel that they’re leaving the building with something that’s going to give them added confidence ... that is a wonderful opportunity for the student but also for the person assisting them,” she says.