Group raises money to help area youth

For more than 10 years, the Assistance League of Georgetown Area has been serving school children in the Georgetown and surrounding school districts, as well as offering women in the area a chance to give back to the community.

This August, the nonprofit will kick off its annual Ring the Bell fundraising drive to raise money for the organization's flagship program, Operation School Bell, which provides school clothing and shoes to elementary age children in Georgetown, Jarrell and Florence ISDs.

"Seeing the happiness on the families' faces when they get new clothes [is the best part]," said Joyce Spitznogle, the group's vice president of membership.

Last year, the organization spent more than $98,000 and served more than 1,300 students in partnership with the Georgetown Walmart and Payless Shoe Source.

"Mentoring and clothing children has become exceedingly important to the future of our nation," said league member Sandy Hooks, who joined the organization five and a half years ago.

The philanthropic organization also supports other programs. Reading and More mentors elementary students, and the New Friends program plans and assists with monthly birthday and holiday parties for residents in the Wesleyan Retirement Home's Alzheimer's unit. The group also provides teddy bears to four agencies that distribute them to children in crisis situations through Share a Bear.

About 74 women make up the nonprofit, and in 2011, the group logged 10,338 service hours.

In order to raise funds for the Assistance Leagues programs, the nonprofit hosts several fundraiser throughout the year, including the Ring the Bell campaign. Some members volunteer as grant writers to seek funds from various groups, including from the City of Georgetown's social services funding.

However, a majority of the nonprofit's funding is raised through the group's Thrift Shop, located on University Avenue.

The store sells women's clothing and shoes, small household appliances, furniture, jewelry, household items and linens. Spitznogle said the group is always looking for donations for the store, and all unsold items are donated to the Shriners Hospitals for Children Burn Care in Galveston.

"I like it because absolutely nothing goes to waste," she said.

Members of the league can volunteer at the shop in a variety of ways, from sorting donations to working out on the floor with customers.

"These are the finest ladies I've ever met," Spitznogle said. "Plus, seeing the happiness on the families' faces when they get new clothes [during Operation School Bell] is great."

The national Assistance League organization was founded in 1935 to promote the growth of effective volunteerism, Hooks said. On Aug. 27, the group will host a membership drive coffee at Independent Bank in the Rivery at 10 a.m. for women interested in volunteering with the nonprofit.

Assistance League of Georgetown Thrift Shop, 603 W. University Ave., Ste. 112, 864-2542,