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Assistance League of Yuma ready to serve
Whether providing clothing to underprivileged schoolchildren, awarding scholarships to college students or giving teddy bears and comfort items to those in traumatic situations, the volunteers of the Assistance League of Yuma are always ready to give a helping hand.
“We are an all-volunteer organization,” said Nancy Filbey, Assistance League of Yuma second vice president, who added the organization does not have any paid employees and receives no government funding.
“Our sole reason for being in existence is to serve those who need help, especially children. We remain true to that statement. We are proud of our continuing service.”
The Assistance League of Yuma is part of a national organization headquartered in Burbank, Calif., that has been in operation since about 1934. There are now over 120 chapters throughout the United States.
“Our particular chapter started organizing in 1966 and became a full-fledged chapter in 1970, a proud 42 years of service to this community,” Filbey said.
About 150 volunteers serve with the Assistance League of Yuma in support of four separate philanthropic programs.
The first program is Operation School Bell. Underprivileged elementary-age schoolchildren throughout the Yuma area are provided with clothing, shoes, books, school supplies and hygiene kits.
By “providing proper clothing and learning materials, Operation School Bell helps children arrive in the classroom better prepared to learn, bolstered by a foundation of pride and self-esteem that carries beyond the classroom,” Assistance League officials stated.
Based upon need, the children are referred to the Assistance League from 48 elementary and charter schools in Yuma County, as well as from San Pasqual in Winterhaven. They are provided with three complete new outfits that include five pairs of socks, five pairs of underwear and a sweatshirt.
They are also given three books, school supplies, a hygiene kit and a backpack or tote bag. Uniforms are provided if the student attends a school requiring them. Each child is also given a voucher good for one pair of shoes at Payless ShoeSource in the Yuma Palms shopping center.
For the 2011-2012 school year, the Assistance League served 1,153 children through Operation School Bell and provided 3,549 new school outfits.
The second program involves the creation of Assistance League Bears of Yuma (ALBY Bears). The stuffed teddy bears are distributed by police officers, firefighters and emergency personnel to children who are experiencing trauma. About 400 are given away each year.
“Countless children and even adults have been comforted in a time of pain or distress by clutching on one of our cuddly bears,” Filbey said.
The third program involves the creation of “Assault Survivor Kits” that are given to victims of sexual or physical assault seeking the services of Amberly's Place. The kits include a change of clothes the victim can wear if their clothing is taken by police as evidence.
“A woman or child has retained some dignity in a horrible situation of abuse by at least having new clothes to wear when they leave Amberly's Place,” Filbey said.
The fourth program provides $1,500 scholarships to two students at Arizona Western College enrolled in a vocational or technical program each year.
The Assistance League also works with the Salvation Army and the Red Cross during emergencies.
“If there is a burnout of a home and the family has elementary-age students, we can accommodate them and give them clothing right away,” Filbey said.
The Assistance League serves the community from two locations: the Thrift Shop, 1054 S. 4th Ave., and the Operation School Bell building, 1048 S. 5th Ave.
Items sold at the Thrift Shop help generate funding for the league's philanthropic endeavors, Filbey said.
“Our primary source of income to cover all expenses associated with our programs is through sales at the Thrift Shop, so we appreciate all donations.”
The Assistance League accepts clothing, dishes, furniture, toys, books and other items that are then sold at the Thrift Shop. The nonprofit organization also accepts monetary donations. As of this year, the organization is a Certified Tax Credit organization.
“We welcome and so appreciate the generosity of this community in its continuing support of our efforts,” Filbey said. “The community has been so generous in its support of our mission.”
There has been a “huge” increase in demand for the services provided by the league during the past several years, Filbey said.
“Families are hurting and need help. We have noticed in the Thrift Shop that while customer numbers are up, the amount being spent has decreased. People cannot afford to buy as much.”
The organization is always recruiting new volunteers, Filbey added.
“Members undergo an orientation to make sure that our organization will be a good fit for all concerned. Please call the shop for further info on this procedure as we will begin a new orientation program in October.”
Filbey and the staff at Assistance League are grateful to the members of the community who volunteer their time and efforts with the organization.
“We are a deeply committed group of volunteers who take pride in what we do and how we do it,” she said. “There is no way to adequately thank all the members who have, through the years, supported this organization and worked so hard to make it grow and increase what it does to help the community.”
For more information about how to donate or volunteer, call 782-9314.
Chris McDaniel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6849.