“Are you ready to go shopping, Sophia?” When an Assistance League member volunteer invited her to step into the Operation School Bell clothing center, the 3rd grader was nervous but all smiles. Surrounded by racks of colorful winter coats and stacks of jeans, the volunteer, Jane asked, “What size?” Sophia shrugged and Jane steered her toward a size 8 jacket. “What color do you like?” It was such an empowering question for a little girl who had never shopped for her own new school clothes before.
She pointed to an aqua coat with green and white accents and timidly tried it on. It fit. Now that Jane had determined her size, she pulled out a bag and tucked in the jacket and a toothbrush. “Look at all these shirts! Here is your size. Which two would you like to try on?” While Sophia studied the selection of tops, Jane pulled two pairs of jeans off the shelf. “Do you like this?” Jane asked, holding up a striped shirt? Sophia nodded and Jane asked if she saw another shirt that she liked. The little girl pointed shyly at a lavender shirt with a cupcake on it. “Can I try that one?” “Of course!”
When Sophia emerged from the fitting room in one of her new outfits, Jane smiled. “Go show your mom how great you look.” Sophia’s mother inspected the outfit to make sure there was room for a growing girl to wear it all year. She nodded approval and Jane moved to the next items on her checklist. “Let’s put some socks and underwear in your bag.” “I get to keep ALL of this?” Jane nodded, as an Operation School Bell volunteer, she was used to questions coming from children who don’t get new things often. Another volunteer handed her mother a shoe voucher and explained how to use it to buy a pair of shoes for the student.
Before Sophia could move over to the bookshelf to select a new book to take home, Jane had one more job for her. “You need to see yourself in your new clothes! Step in front of the mirror.” The mirror reflected a happy little girl, standing a bit taller than she did when she arrived, and looking ready to attend school the next week, dressed appropriately, confident and ready to learn.
*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of program recipients.