The Salem Foundation has provided grants throughout the years to the Assistance League® of Salem for our largest philanthropic program, Operation School Bell®. Operation School Bell assists struggling families by providing complete sets of new school clothes for children in need, giving students the impetus to attend school regularly, concentrate on schoolwork and compete on a more equal level with their peers.
Operation School Bell was started in 1960, when Assistance League members collected gently used clothes to give away. The program grew quickly and we started buying new clothes to distribute to Salem-Keizer Public Schools. Over the years, a partnership has developed with the local School District to work with counselors who identify students in need at each of the 63+ public schools, with the district picking up and distributing the clothes. In 2001, we began serving Salem-Keizer Head Start students, and in 2007, students at Chemawa Indian School as well.
A student may receive any or all of the following clothes: a jacket; three school-appropriate shirts; two pairs of jeans, uniform pants, sweatpants, or skirts; six pairs of socks; six pairs of underwear; a pull-over sweatshirt; a hygiene kit; and a voucher for athletic shoes at a local shoe store. High school students receive a gift card or store voucher to do their own shopping, and next year most middle school students will shop at an ALS-sponsored shopping spree.
In the 2009-10 school year alone, Operation School Bell provided clothes for 2,877 Salem area children. Grant funding from the Salem Foundation provided clothing for about 35 of those students. We are committed to aggressively raise money to fund this and our other philanthropic programs that benefit children in the Salem-Keizer community, and we are very grateful for the funds awarded by the Salem Foundation which have supported Operation School Bell over the years!