What would it take to clothe nearly 2,000 children?
We've all done back-to-school shopping. But wrap your head around these numbers from a project called Operation School Bell:
- 2,000 pairs of jeans
- 4,000 shirts
- 20,000 pairs of underwear
- 20,000 pairs of socks
- 2,000 winter coats
- 2,000 winter hats
- 2,000 pairs of mittens
- 2,000 books
- 2,000 hygiene kits and
- 2,000 Payless Shoes vouchers for shoes or boots
You might ask yourself: "Who does all that shopping?"
Or maybe "Who pays for it?"
The short answer would be Assistance League of Southeastern Michigan.
The long answer
There are 330 volunteer members in the Assistance League of Southeast Michigan. They are the ones doing the shopping. They are divided into teams based the product they are buying. And whether it's winter coats or books, they work hard to get quality products at a great price, often hitting end-of-season sales.
The clothes are collected at the Assistance League warehouse, de-tagged, re-tagged and sorted by size and gender.
"We're a very organized organization," joked Kay Scheidt, public relations manager for The ReSale Connection.
Operation School Bell takes place in September and October each year.
Volunteers arrive at the warehouse at 7 a.m. to load up the clothing. In school gymnasiums, racks are set up and clothing is displayed.
"We try to make it look as much like a store as possible," said Cindy Guerrieri, vice president of communications. "For many kids, it's the first time they've received new clothes."
The elementary school students, those selected by the school socialworkers as being from families in need, arrive around 9 a.m., and that's when the magic begins.
Each student is given a new duffle bag ("Sometimes the bag is bigger than the child!" Guerrier said) and a 'personal shopper' in the form of an Assistance League volunteer.
"It's so exciting for them because they get to choose!" Guerrier said. "And we have quite a selection. The look on their faces is priceless."
Each student selects a pair of jeans, two shirts, 10 pairs of underwear, 10 pairs of socks, a winter coat, hat and gloves, a book, a hygiene kit and a Payless Shoes voucher.
This year Assistance League extended the program to 90 Rochester children in need, working with Kohl's Department Store.
"We like to rotate schools," Guerrier said. "And spread the wealth."
The long answer, part 2
So who pays for Operation School Bell?
Well, if you've shopped at ReSale Connection in Downtown Rochester, then you have.
"This is our fundraiser for all Assistance League programs," Scheidt said. "The store is our mainstay."
In addition to Operation School Bell, the store funds other Assistance League programs, like One-2-One tutoring that helps kindergarten and first grade students learn to read.
"One program that we actually turn volunteers away from is Wee Help," Guerrieri said. "This is when we make kits for new mothers on limited income. It includes a blanket, bib, onesie, sleeper and hat. Everyone wants to work on that!"
They also work with 35 hospitals to provide Assault Survivor Kits as well as fire and law enforcement agencies to provide Buddy Bears to children in crisis situations
All of these things, and more, are possible due to hardworking volunteers — and a fabulous little shop I suspect many of you don't know about.
Look for more details about that shop on Rochester Patch on Friday.
The ReSale Connection is located at 204 S. Main Street. They are open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call 248-656-0414.