Working closely with staff from area school districts, Assistance League chapter volunteers provide school clothing to local at-risk students, scholarships to graduating seniors, support to new teachers and one-on-one literacy support to elementary school children, Vice President of Marketing & Communications Cindy Graham said.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the organization has had to shift and adapt its programming, but the volunteers are determined to continue helping people.
Graham said most of the Assistance League’s philanthropic programs are funded by proceeds from The Thrift Shop, an entirely volunteer-run resale shop stocked with donations of new and gently used clothing, accessories, jewelry, housewares, furniture, and decor.
The shop closed for 10 weeks this spring, reopening at the end of May with reduced hours and limited shoppers permitted at one time.
Previously, it was open Tuesday-Saturday from 10 a.m-4 p.m.; it is now open Thursday-Saturday from 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
“We are now open only about 30% of our normal operating hours,” Graham said. “Sales during the hours we are open have been exceptional, but because of the reduced hours, we are trailing previous years’ proceeds by as much as 50%. Fixed costs remain the same.”
During the last fiscal year, the Assistance League provided 2,260 Georgetown-area students with $75 worth of new school clothing and shoes each through its Operation School Bell program; donated 3,660 books to local elementary schools, awarded $60,000 in scholarships to area high school seniors, and provided 21 first-year elementary school teachers with financial assistance to help them set up their classrooms for the new school year, according to Graham.
Typically, school counselors invite parents of children that meet their need criteria to attend an Operation School Bell shopping day at Walmart, Graham said. Assistance League volunteers check the students in and help with selecting appropriate clothing. Each student is allowed to select $75 worth of clothing.
“This year, the program will be different because we cannot safely bring large groups of people together,” Graham said. “We are developing a system which will allow us to provide clothing safely. We are looking at having the parents provide information about sizing and color and style preferences and having volunteers select appropriate clothing for delivery to the student.”
Assist a Teacher is another one of the organization’s staple programs that volunteers are continuing. On Aug. 4 gift cards were provided to first-year elementary teachers in Jarrell ISD to help them equip their classrooms.
Graham said the group is planning to also provide Georgetown ISD first-time teachers with gift cards as soon as they are able to work out the details with the district.
“The classrooms may look different this year, and some learning may be done remotely, but teachers still need our support,” she said.
Volunteers are still brainstorming ways to continue with other programs.
Birthday parties were a part of the memory care program in the past and will not take place this fall, but Assistance League is looking for additional ways to enrich the lives of memory care residents. Graham said notes and cards may be the solution.
A program with volunteers who read to and mentor elementary students will not take place either, but the group is seeking other ways to promote literacy and enhance the self-esteem of area at-risk students.
Graham said she hopes some of the funding lost via The Thrift Shop’s reduced hours could be made up for with the Ring the Bell Mail Out Campaign. The mail-out fundraiser will take place this fall.
The Thrift Shop and the chapter's offices are located at 900 N. Austin Ave., Ste. 115, Georgetown. 512-864-2542. www.assistanceleague.org/georgetown-area