Thanks to the help of the East Valley Assistance League 45 children from Kyrene de las Lomas Elementary will be sporting new clothing at school after participating in Operation School Bell, which consisted of mini shopping sprees at Target on Wednesday with the help of volunteer personal shoppers.

After arriving at a Target in Tempe each Lomas child was paired with a volunteer shopper from the East Valley Assistance League, who helped the children find the clothing that best met their needs.

“I’m having a great time, and we’ve picked out some shirts and shorts that I can wear for school,” said Rudy, a student at Lomas. “I know I’ll get good use out of the things I get.”

While a long line of children waited to try on their new clothing, the faces of the volunteers seemed to be glowing just as brightly as those of the children.

“Operation School Bell is one of our favorite projects,” said Suzy Thorne, an Ahwatukee Foothills resident and East Valley Assistance League volunteer. “We have them try the clothing on so that we can make sure it fits, and we’re all having a lot of fun.”

Ahwatukee Foothills resident, volunteer and former Kyrene teacher Joanne Hentz found that the experience was also educational for the children.

“As I shopped with my student I realized it was important to teach her about different sizes and what they mean, because some of these children have never been shopping before,” Hentz said.

The East Valley Assistance League provides for a jacket, two shirts, two pants or shorts, underwear, socks, hygiene kits and a $20 gift card to Payless Shoes for each child. The cost is around $90 per child.

“The league has a thrift shop in Chandler, which is how we fund programs like this,” Hentz said.

Roxanne Richardson, refugee homeless liaison for the Kyrene School District, said that Kyrene is very fortunate to be partnered with a quality organization like the East Valley Assistance League. The students chosen to participate in Operation School Bell were identified by the school administration as students in need.

“It was hard to select which families would receive assistance from this program because they have varying levels of poverty,” Richardson said. “These kids will get to walk into school with brand new clothes tomorrow instead of hand-me-downs, and it’s a great opportunity for them.”

According to Richardson, most Ahwatukee Foothills residents do not realize that poverty is a problem in their own backyard.

Of the 839 students enrolled at Lomas about 41 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunches, 28 of them are homeless and 1 qualifies as a refugee.

To find out more information about poverty in your area or volunteer with the East Valley Assistance League, visit eastvalley.assistanceleague.org.

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