The Board of Education of the Long Beach Unified School District accepted the National Assistance League Operation School Bell Award during this week’s school board meeting. The honor celebrates a long and impactful partnership that has helped to clothe and provide school supplies, food and other necessities to tens of thousands of local school children.
The award has been given only three times in Long Beach during the 80-year history of the local chapter.
“Long Beach Unified School District has been Operation School Bell’s biggest advocate for several years and has helped in numerous ways,” said Valerie Hayward, president of the Board for Assistance League of Long Beach. “LBUSD is the epitome of a strong supporter and partner of our programs. We are honored to work with such an exemplary school district.”
Hayward said LBUSD has readily obliged when asked to help promote Operation School Bell to school administrators, with Assistance League staff always present at the principals’ meetings early in the school year to explain how to access services.
The school district’s assistance delivering students’ backpacks also has been invaluable, Hayward said.
“We pack on average 1,000 or more bags per packing day. In the past our member volunteers would caravan to schools and deliver the backpacks. We reached out to the district, and they immediately had their fleet maintenance manager contact us. Over the past few years, we have been working with the fleet maintenance manager to help deliver the backpacks to two or more schools in a day. Students have been receiving their school uniforms more quickly.”
During the past year, the school district also worked closely with the Assistance League to address food insecurity issues in the community. Operation School Bell collaborated with the Assistance League’s Assisteens Auxiliary in piloting the Adopt A Family Student Food Program.
“Dr. Baker (LBUSD superintendent) offered both her personal and professional support of the pilot project while working with our Assisteens member volunteers” Hayward said. “The project was to pack beans, rice and seasonings into 5,000 food packets that would later be distributed to district students. On the day of the event, former Superintendent Chris Steinhauser, Dr. Baker and Mr. Mark Chavez from Nutrition Services, members of the Board of Education and other LBUSD volunteers helped with the packing of food for the program.”
Operation School Bell is the signature program of Assistance League, providing assistance to children in need. Chapters determine the specific needs in their local communities, then develop, fund and implement the programs. The Rick Rackers Auxiliary manages the Operation School Bell program at Assistance League of Long Beach
Last school year, Operation School Bell provided more than 12,000 LBUSD students with new school uniforms and school supplies. Many of the students also received a book courtesy of Barnes and Noble and City National Bank.
In 1994, LBUSD became the first public school district in the nation to adopt school uniforms in kindergarten through eighth grade. Hundreds of other school districts nationwide have since followed this example by implementing school uniforms. The Assistance League and Operation School Bell have been instrumental in the success of the widely emulated uniform initiative.