Bonnie Domin

Bonnie Domin, who manages the Assistance League of the East Valley thrift store in Chandler, said a county grant will help it cover rent and utilities for two months.

For more than two decades, the Assistance League of the East Valley has helped people in need of all ages in the region, but now, amid the pandemic’s impact on most nonprofits, it’s the Assistance League that could use a little help.

It’s cut the hours of its thrift store in Chandler and reduced some annual programs as donations have declined and its spring fundraiser canceled because of COVID-19 concerns.

Maricopa County officials last week provided some much-needed help with a $25,000 grant  from their share of federal pandemic relief money.

The purpose is to cover expenditures related to the public health emergency brought on by the pandemic. 

“This grant from the county comes at a most difficult time for us,” said Lois Eitel, president of the all-volunteer Assistance League chapter. 

“Due to the pandemic we had to close our Thrift Store, a major funding source for us, and we have been able to open only limited hours ever since.  The grant will play a big part in helping us continue supporting 24 schools that depend on us. I join with the more than 125 volunteers in thanking Maricopa County for this much-needed grant.”

Member Sarah Auffret added, “Many of our grants from the public have dried up. We are hoping to receive end-of-year tax credit donations.”

Still, she said, “We are continuing to provide emergency assault survivor kits of clothing and toiletries to East Valley fire and police departments and hospitals.”

The nonprofit is one of more than two dozen Assistance League nationwide.

In its 2018-19 fiscal year, the local chapter contributed more than 31,087 service hours, “enabling us to touch the lives of more than 16,300 men, women and children,” it says on its website.

The funds it raises are returned to Mesa, Tempe, Chandler, Gilbert, Scottsdale and Ahwatukee through philanthropic programs that include Operation School Bell, its assault survivor kits, adult day care socials, scholarships and its and Share Our Spare programs.

The county grant will help the Assistance League provide new school uniforms to more than 7,000 elementary school students this year, part of its Operation School Bell program.

“By dipping into reserve funds, we will still provide new uniforms for 7,000 elementary school children in 24 East Valley schools, but we’ll no longer provide shoes, hoodies, underwear and toiletries,” Auffret said.

However, the League had to eliminate its in-person dressings at Target for children in non-uniform schools.

Last year, it dressed almost 10,000 children from both uniform and non-uniform schools

The thrift store, at 2326 N. Alma School Road in Chandler, is now open only three days a week, Thursday through Saturday 10 a.m.-3 p.m.  

“This schedule barely covers our store rent and operating costs,” said Auffret, explaining hours were reduced from 35 a week because many volunteers are retirees whose health may be adversely impacted by the pandemic.

The group hopes that as the holiday season approaches, people will open their hearts and their wallets and donate at assistanceleagueeastvalley.org. 

Also needed are donations of goods to the shop, which offers clothing, household items, books, toys, linens, sewing supplies and more. Donation hours are Thursday-Saturday 10 a.m.-3 p.m. and Monday during those same hours.

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