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Nonprofits keep students from having worn-out clothes, shoes when times are tough

Doug Ramsay photo

Operation School Bell volunteer Carol Friedrichs searches through the coats inside the center as she fills an order last week. The program, under the Everett Assistance League, gives children replacement clothing, and has an arrangement with the Snohomish Education Foundation for new shoes.

Students are never left in need of clothes or shoes through a pair of nonprofits that have begun working together.
The Hansen Shoe Fund has been discreetly supplying shoes to kids who need them since 1986 as a program of the Snohomish Education Foundation.
Since 2020, though, Snohomish students can get new clothes through an arrangement the Foundation made with Operation School Bell in Everett. The Foundation provides the Everett group a $3,000 annual grant to open the doors. New clothes through Operation School Bell are available each year from late September to February.
Kay Ditzenberger, the Foundation’s president, was who proposed the arrangement. She’s grateful for Operation School Bell’s help with supporting students in the community.
According to Laurie Robinson, the Vice President of Philanthropic Programs for Assistance League of Everett, Operation School Bell’s budget consists mostly of the proceeds from the Assistance League thrift shop attached to Operation School Bell. The budget goes toward purchasing brand new clothes and shoes for the students.
Robinson was a teacher in the Snohomish school district for 40 years before she joined Operation School Bell after her retirement.
“I remember every year when some of my students got to come here, and how delighted they were when they got back to school and they had brand new clothes,” Robinson said.
Operation School Bell serves all the school districts in Snohomish County, starting from preschool all the way up to high school.
“We serve a student, but those little guys grow so fast. By the spring they have grown out of their shoes and this is where the Hansen Shoe Fund comes in,” Robinson explained.
But according to Ditzenberger, their needs exceed their income, making support from the local community crucial to help out students. Community members
can donate straight to the Hansen Shoe Fund, where 100% of that will go towards buying brand new shoes for the kids. For Operation School Bell, community members can not only donate, but shop at their thrift store in Everett, host an estate sale,  go to their fundraising activities or volunteer with the effort.
Before partnering with Operation School Bell, the Hansen Shoe Fund gave out vouchers so students would be able to get shoes. It all began when teacher Jim Hansen observed how some students could use new shoes, and didn’t want them to feel marginalized. The vouchers provided were only for shoes, not clothes. However, with the annual grant from the Snohomish Education Foundation, principals in the Snohomish school districts are encouraged to take advantage of Operation School Bell before requesting vouchers from the foundation.
“Vouchers are the last resort now,” said Jen Bogdan, the chairwoman of the Hansen Shoe Fund and a foundation board member of the Snohomish Education Foundation.
If students are not able to go to Operation School Bell in-person due to school, a bag and tag method is also encouraged. So the students don’t have to miss out on any school, the school can send shoes and clothing sizes to Operation School Bell where the items will be bagged, tagged and sent back to the school. According to Ditzenberger, 100% of the Snohomish schools have been bagging and tagging.
Ashlyn Yoseph became involved with Operation School Bell in 2018 through an estate sale. She’s now the  2023-2024 President of the Everett Assistance League.
“I joined the Assistance League because I had a very dear aunt pass away and we called the League to do the estate sale. After the sale was over, I joined,” Yoseph said.
With the Hansen Shoe Fund and Operation School Bell working together, students can be assured that they will be able to get new shoes and clothes for the school year. Even when the kids grow out of them, the doors will be open for them from late September to February.
“We served over 3,700 students last year, so there is a great need in the community and that is a lot of children,” Yoseph said. “Every year the number grows.”
Operation School Bell is at 5107 Evergreen Way, Everett, in the Everett Assistance League’s building. The thrift store is at the front of the building.



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