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Assistance League of Indianapolis clothes students in need ahead of winter

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Assistance League of Indianapolis nonprofit has been serving central Indiana students for decades and, even with new challenges coming because of the COVID-19 pandemic, their team has still served before and during the school year.

They work with social workers for Indianapolis Public Schools and other local township districts of Pike, Washington, Lawrence and Warren as part of their Operation School Bell program.

Knowing that there are thousands of children without access to adequate school clothing or shoes, Assistance League members ask school personnel and social workers to identify and refer K-5 students. Parents and or social workers fill out a form after being vetted for the organization. Their goal this year is to give away clothing to 3,000 children.

The organization just moved into a new building at their Northbrook Distribution Center.

The work is volunteer-based.

There have been issues with getting clothing in on time for inventory with the program. Knowing that the children needed their clothing at the beginning of the school year and ahead of the winter, their team had to make a lot of pivots. With a 175 members on the team to bring different strengths, volunteers have had to adjust on the fly.

Sharon Gleason, president of Assistance League, said, “We’re blessed to have volunteers that rise to the occasion along with our donors and supporters who still support us through all of the changes that we have made.”

The nonprofit is also looking to give away shoes to 2,000 with its Operation School Bell program, which helps children on individual bases who may need emergency clothing and supplies if they’re in crisis.

“These ladies give it their all. They are in it for the children. They are in it to give back to our community and those who need this. I could not be more proud of our volunteers,” Gleason said.

Cathy Weimer is the president elect of Assistance League Indianapolis. “In February, we go to Las Vegas. Sometimes, on our own dime, to go to the off-price show where we can meet with vendors to get the best deals that we can find. Every penny that we get from our grantors or our donors go back in to the community in some way.”

The team of volunteers have a pack-and-deliver procedure where they gather students’ sizes and information such as their favorite colors before shopping for them.

“So they’ll get two pairs of pants, or a skort, or a jumper. They’ll get two polo shirts that they can wear to school. They’ll get six pairs of underwear. Six pairs of socks,” Weimer said.

Operation School Bell will continue through the end of October.