Writer // Janelle Morrison Photography // Submitted
For the 34th consecutive year, Assistance League® of Indianapolis, through its Operation School Bell® Apparel Program, is creating a brighter tomorrow for many children in Indianapolis. Assistance League® of Indianapolis will host its 2017 Holiday Luncheon and Style Show Thursday, December 7 at the Ritz Charles in Carmel. The proceeds will support the charitable programs of this organization.
Operation School Bell® has provided clothing to Indianapolis students since it began in 1984, and the organization’s goal for 2017 is to clothe 3,375 disadvantaged students. Children are referred by school personnel from Indianapolis Public Schools and The Metropolitan School Districts of Lawrence, Pike, Warren and Washington Townships. Assistance League® of Indianapolis clothed its 57,000th child on October 16, 2017.
Operation School Bell® Beyond the Bell was made a permanent program of Assistance League® of Indianapolis in 2014. This program provides a supply of new clothing to IPS schools served by Operation School Bell® Apparel. Student recipients of Beyond the Bell items are homeless, displaced or new to their school and are not otherwise served by Operation School Bell®.
Students are bussed to the organization’s shop, located in the IPS Forest Manor Professional Development Center at 4501 E. 32nd St. in Indianapolis, where they are treated to a unique shopping experience. The children are excited to receive special treatment from their own personal shopper, an Assistance League® member, who will guide them in choosing their new school items. Each child receives a new warm winter coat, hat and gloves, socks, undergarments and a belt. They also receive two pairs of pants or a jumper or skort, three collared shirts, hygiene items, a book and a duffel bag to hold all of their new items.
In addition to Operation School Bell® Apparel, Operation School Bell® Shoes began in 2000-2001, providing new athletic shoes for 1,108 IPS school children. This program continues to grow and now includes children from IPS and the Metropolitan School Districts of Lawrence, Pike, Warren, Washington and Wayne Townships. The program’s goal is to reach 2,850 students this year.
Operation School Bell® helps children arrive in the classroom better prepared to learn. Studies show that children who come to school appropriately dressed show improvement in classroom performance, attendance and self-esteem. The poverty level of elementary-aged children has grown significantly as measured by the number of children qualifying for the free/reduced lunch program. In the five school districts served by Operation School Bell, a staggering 43,451 students now qualify for free lunch.
Kathy Kinzel, a Zionsville resident, is a past-president of the Assistance League® of Indianapolis.
“I’ve been a member for about 15 years, and the first time I went to Operation School Bell®, I was hooked,” Kinzel said. “This is something that I am passionate about. The thing that I’ve always enjoyed the most is shopping with the kids. I had been with the organization for a couple of years, and this little boy said to me that he almost didn’t make it to school that day. I remember thinking that maybe he had missed the bus. No, there had been a shooting in his neighborhood, and it closed down the neighborhood. I thought to myself that my kids have never faced anything like that, and here was this little boy, approximately fourth- to fifth-grade age, who was kind of matter of fact about the situation.
“We had a nice little conversation, and he was happy to be there getting new and clean clothes. I remember thinking that his life was much different than what I know. All of the kids have stories, and for us to be able to impact children that have been in those kinds of situations is very powerful.”
Carmel resident and Assistance League® of Indianapolis board member Peggy Powell spoke about her passion for the organization as well as what guests can expect at this year’s fundraising luncheon.
“I had only been a member a very short time when they asked me if I would become a buyer for Operation School Bell®,” Powell said. “At the time, Elly Johnston, president-elect, and I and were buying partners, and we bought all of the pants for Operation School Bell® and all of the shirts. We had a big job. I’m still a buyer and am currently the public relations chair and learning about everything that goes along with that position. I am passionate about this organization, and I love being down at our ‘store’ and shopping with kids.”
This year’s Holiday Luncheon and Style Show will feature adult women models, once again, displaying the latest styles from The Secret Ingredient. New this year will be the addition of children models that will be featuring the latest and sweetest trends in the popular children’s line, Matilda Jane.
The layout for the luncheon will also be varying from the traditional runway design to better engage and entertain the luncheon attendees.
Assistance League® of Indianapolis, with the support of their 200+ volunteer members, strives to provide comfort to children and adults in the greater Indianapolis area. To learn more about its programs and to purchase tickets for this year’s Holiday Luncheon and Style Show, visit alindy.org.