Assistance League of Bellingham (ALB) is an all-volunteer, community nonprofit organization. Their mission states that “volunteers transform the lives of children and adults through community programs.”
Last school year, 734 students in Bellingham Public Schools were given new clothing through Operation School Bell ($100 per student), the organization’s signature program. Countywide that number reaches close to 2,300 students. In a similar program, 40 Teen Team vouchers (each worth $125) were distributed to district high school students experiencing homelessness or who are designated as unaccompanied youth. If you include all seven school districts in Whatcom County, ALB gave out 100 Teen Team vouchers.
In addition to clothing students in kindergarten through grade 12, 51 middle and high school students in the district received enrichment scholarships in summer 2019, with some scholarships reaching $900. Two of those scholarship recipients were Sehome High sophomore Marcus Kanenaga and Bellingham High sophomore Bailey Kager.
Kanenaga attended an astronomy camp in Tucson, Arizona for 8 days this past summer. Because of his experience in this camp, he said that he now has a “deeper and greater understanding of space and it’s relation to our planet.”
“This [was] probably the coolest thing I have ever done and I greatly appreciate [ALB] help as it made it easier to go,” Kanenaga said.
Kager used her enrichment scholarship money to participate in a four-week dance intensive with Northwest Dance Project in Portland, Oregon.
“I expanded my dance skills, learned about the possible paths to becoming a professional dancer,” Kager said, “and I made many connections within the dance community.”
“Without the scholarship from Assistance League of Bellingham, I would have missed out on the opportunity to learn more about myself, my craft and the dance community. Thank you!”
Assistance League members spend hours volunteering and fundraising. In fact, annual volunteer hours at ALB have been estimated at a value of over $1 million in their 2018 annual report. (That estimate is based on their calculation of an average hourly wage and benefits of $25.) The experience for volunteers and the intrinsic reward in their work is way beyond any monetary amount.
“The camaraderie among the members is exceptional,” said ALB volunteer Christy Dahms, ” and we enjoy working together while making a difference in the community.”
“We are professional and organized, yet welcoming and fun!”
Dahms encouraged those looking to volunteer in the community to join ALB membership ranks.
To raise funds for this longtime support to schools, ALB runs a Thrift & Gift Shop, located at 2817 Meridian, and holds annual fundraisers such as the Spring Fashion event and the Yule Boutique. In 2019, ALB focused on literacy in their fundraising and collected over 4,000 books for Kids Need Books and assisted with a summer reading program.
If you would like to support ALB, you can shop or donate at their store, attend one of their fundraisers or donate money directly. These dollars go to students and to other community needs in very tangible ways. If you would like to volunteer, please visit them online.
Whether clothing students at the start of the school year or helping them reach their dreams as artists and scientists, Assistance League of Bellingham is an inspiring community partner to Bellingham Public Schools.