By Anna Guido
BOND HILL - With the right back-to-school clothing and supplies, students are more enthused about attending classes, social workers say.
Through "Operation School Bell," the National Assistance League wants to ensure that happens. The league's Greater Cincinnati chapter this month will distribute more than $52,000 worth of new school clothes, shoes, backpacks and hygiene kits to 750 students from 14 Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky public and private schools.
Today, former Cincinnati Bengal Anthony Munoz will help kick off Operation School Bell in Cincinnati at the Assistance League office, 4527 Reading Road, Bond Hill.
"Starting school on time often has a lot to do with families feeling like they have the appropriate clothing and supplies to start school," said Molly Wesley-Chevalier, family resource center coordinator for Newport Independent Schools.
Newport's Fourth Street Elementary - a pre-K-5 public school - hopes to outfit 50 students this year through Operation School Bell.
"Fourth Street school generally is the one most in need," said Wesley-Chevalier, adding that 92.5 percent of the school's 420 students are eligible for the free and reduced meal program.
Last year, Fourth Street Elementary's first year to participate in Operation School Bell, 50 students were given new gym shoes, socks and hygiene kits.
Students from St. Bernard-Elmwood Place will be outfitted today by Munoz and more than 75 league volunteers.
"We do a school a day; some schools take two days," said Suzanne Shield, a league spokeswoman. "We send school buses for the students and have a member go through with each child and get them fitted. It's kind of like a little shopping excursion for them."
Other schools participating this year are:
St. Francis deSales in Evanston; Rothenburg, St. Francis Seraph and Washington Park Elementary in Over-the-Rhine; Hays/Porter/Wash-burn and Heberle in the West End; Vine in Mount Auburn; Lincoln Heights and Westwood elementaries; and Mildred Dean and A.D. Owens elementaries in Newport.
The entire first and second-grade classes at Washington Park Elementary - about 100 students - will get fitted Thursday and Fridayfor school uniforms and shoes. Students also will receive supplies and hygiene kits.
"Our poverty rate is 98 percent," said school social worker Joe Wilmers.
About Operation School Bell
The National Assistance League is based in Burbank, Calif. Through its 105 affiliates, including Cincinnati, the group raised $6.5 million in 2002 to provide school clothing and shoes to students in need through Operation School Bell.
Operation School Bell is the league's signature national project, serving more than 130,000 students annually. Fund-raisers and a grant from the Charles Dater Foundation provide funding for Operation School Bell in Cincinnati.
For information about the Assistance League of Greater Cincinnati, call (513) 221-4447. For more about the National Assistance League, go to www.nal.org.
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