Virtually every child in Ada County will start the year with school supplies, thanks to a group of mostly retired women who donate time and money to help Idaho’s low-income families.
Assistance League of Boise members gave 96 area schools more than 1,400 boxes of supplies so more than 8,000 students will have binders, glue, crayons and other items on the first day of school. League members don’t want students to miss out because they don’t have a pencil and paper.
“We just hate to think that a teacher would have to pay for her students’ supplies out of her own pocket,” said Robyn Greer, a league member who organized this year’s Operation School Supplies. “There is such a tremendous need and this is our way to give back to the community.”
This is the 17th year of Operation School Supplies. The needs and contributions have grown every year, though the latter cannot keep up with the former. This year the Assistance League accumulated $63,000 in donations — its largest sum ever — but the need was calculated at closer to $68,000. Still, all children in elementary and middle schools will get the critical supplies needed to start school.
“We buy exactly what is necessary and we never have anything left over,” Greer sad.
Each spring, the Assistance League surveys schools in Kuna, Boise, Meridian and Eagle to see what kids need for the next school year. The Assistance League works with Fred Meyer Inc., which offers bulk-purchasing deals. Fred Meyer volunteers deliver the goods. The women of the Assistance League take three full days in August to organize the goods, pack them in boxes and then deliver them to the schools.
On Wednesday, nearly 50 women worked in their Garden City warehouse at packaging the school supplies. A group of teenage girls from a local church helped with some of the heavier lifting. Friends and husbands with pickup trucks pulled up in the afternoon to deliver the boxes all over Ada County.
“The schools are so appreciative,” said Sandra Anderson, who has organized Operation School Supplies in past years.
To raise money, the Assistance League manages the Thrift Shop, which sells donated items. Loyal Thrift Shop customers live nearby at the Plantation Place subdivision. Residents there so admire the Assistance League’s efforts that they purchased sandwiches for three days of lunches for the volunteers. The Ada County Realtors also donated items for classrooms, such as Kleenex and hand sanitizer.
“This is an amazing organization and our members do amazing work,” Greer said. “It’s really a privilege to be a part of this.”
The Assistance League has a variety of other programs, such as Operation School Bell, which provides new school clothes, and Cinderella’s Closet, which helps teens find dresses for dances and events.
The Assistance League of Boise is an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization. The Boise chapter was organized in 1976 with about 50 members. There are more than 120 chapters and guilds in 26 states with over 26,000 members. The Boise chapter has about 360 members and supports six community-based philanthropic programs.
The Boise chapter’s major funding sources are the Thrift Shop, an annual fundraising letter dedicated to Operation School Bell, a Philanthropic Endowment Fund at the Idaho Community Foundation, grants and donations. The Thrift Shop sells donated items.