Story written by the Assistance League® of Denver
“I speak four languages. Kurdish, Farsi, English, and Spanish. How many do you speak?” The words came tumbling out of her bright, six-year-old snaggletoothed face as she bounced up to the Operation School Bell® check-in desk.
“One,” replied the Assistance League Auxiliary volunteer rather sheepishly.
Obviously astounded and more than a little appalled at this apparent dearth of linguistic ability, she blurted, “Where are YOU from?”
Upon hearing “Texas,” she seemed relieved that at least it was some place exotic enough to have its own distinctive dialect, so she brightened and moved on to happily organizing the pile of papers on the desk and examining them closely to find her name on the official-looking list.
This bouncy little first grader with her tight braids and bright pink t-shirt was one of approximately 300 Aurora Public Schools children receiving clothing, books, and dental health kits at the recent Operation School Bell philanthropic event hosted by Assistance League® Denver and Assistance League Auxiliary® Denver. This year’s Operation School Bell partnered with the local Kmart store at Chambers and Colfax to serve the needs of identified children from Boston K-8, Sable and Crawford Elementary schools, and the Aurora Welcome Center, which serves refugee families in 16 Aurora schools.
Each child got to choose two free books to take home, and special $80 gift cards allowed families to purchase school uniforms, shoes, coats, gloves, and other approved clothing items for each child. Excited chatter in more than a dozen languages echoed through the aisles as children found that perfect pair of shoes or colorful book they otherwise might not be able to have.
Several distinguished visitors joined in the excitement by helping families make their selections and encouraging children to do well in school. Renie Peterson, Mayor Pro Tempore, City of Aurora, stopped by to talk with children and their families. Aurora Board of Education Director Cathy Wildman helped Aurora children choose books from the colorful array on the tables near the entry. Several administrators, social workers, and family liaisons stayed to translate and help guide families through the process. Following the event, the Aurora Welcome Center reported a flood of phone calls from refugee families expressing profound appreciation for all they had received.
Operation School Bell began over 50 years ago as a one-woman effort to provide clothing to children in need and is now the signature philanthropic program of Assistance League. With combined annual budgets for Operation School Bell totaling more than $20 million, nationally nearly four million schoolchildren have benefited from the annual event. Funding comes from Assistance League Thrift Shop sales, individual and corporate donations, grants and partnerships. The Thrift Shop operated by Assistance League of Denver is located at 1331 East Colfax. For more information, please visit assistanceleague.org/denver.