Working-class family appreciates community help


Meloney Clifton tries to teach her three children the importance of helping others. If it’s donating an unused toy or a pair of pants that don’t fit, she wants her kids to understand the meaning of kindness. The reason: Meloney’s family is on the receiving end of community help.

Grant Fiske, a fifth-grader, tries on a new sweatshirt.

“My husband and I are trying to make ends meet. Paying all the bills gets us by,” Meloney said. “We aren’t stable yet.”

Meloney, 34, graduated from Broadview University in March. She earned an associate degree in applied science in massage therapy. She and her husband Jacob work together at a Boise gym. Meloney is a massage therapist and Jacob is a personal trainer – both jobs are commission only. To bring in more money, they both work an extra part-time job at the gym – Jacob does janitorial work and Meloney works as an operation manger.

“Between the both of us, we are always at work,” Meloney said. “Sometimes it can be 12 hours a day.”

Her kids — Grant, Angela, and Dean — aren’t sporting the latest Nike’s or even a new outfit to start school.

“We can’t afford back-to-school clothes,” Meloney said.

Angela Fiske, a fourth-grader, is excited to select a new jacket.

So for the past five years, Meloney’s children have qualified to participate in Operation School Bell, an Assistance League program that provides 3,700 Ada County kids with new clothes. School counselors and administrators decide which students participate based on family income. The organization purchases new clothing and stocks shelves in the summer to prepare for the fall giveaway.

“For people like me and my husband who work our tails off and are still struggling, it’s good to know there are resources available like Operation School Bell,” Meloney said. “It doesn’t make us feel like the bad parent who cannot provide for our kids and that is a huge relief.”

Nearly 20 students from Boise’s Cynthia Mann Elementary School, including Meloney’s three kids, arrived by bus to the Assistance League warehouse on Glenwood Blvd. Each child is paired with a volunteer who helps the kids select a new book, shirts, pants, underwear, socks, gloves, a coat, a gift card for new shoes and personal hygiene products. It costs the Assistance League of Boise $125 per child.

The money for the new clothing largely comes from The Thrift Shop, a store where used and donated items are cleaned and displayed for resale. Funding also comes from donors.

“The kids are so appreciative of the clothing they receive,” said Nancy Duke, Assistance League member. “It’s such a great feeling when you see these kids smile as they leave with a bag of clothes.”

For Meloney’s son, Grant, a fifth-grader, it’s about the experience of selecting the latest trends and having a new outfit that fits properly.

“It’s a place with kind ladies who don’t judge you,” Grant said. “It’s really cool to get new clothes.”

Meloney’s family also receives government support through food stamps and Medicaid. She hopes to get off the food stamp program in the near future. She and her husband live in a Boise apartment and are saving to buy a home – something they say will take time.

“I’m grinning every year when I see these kids happy about getting new clothes,” said Libby Hoffman, Assistance League member. “I love being joyful for the kids, it makes my heart feel warm.”

Dean Fiske, a kindergartner, experiences his first Operation School Bell clothing giveaway.













Andrew Reed

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