Offering both practical essentials and messages of support to local children in need, victims of assault, survivors of domestic abuse and the homeless, a group of Eastside volunteers quietly works to bring comfort and hope to these often unseen populations.
An all-volunteer non-profit serving the Eastside community through its philanthropic programs since 1997, the Assistance League of the Eastside is one of 120 chapters in the National Assistance League. Today, the Eastside chapter’s 159 members provide four vital programs to vulnerable local residents.
“Giving back to the community is what we do,” explains president Marlene Vacknitz. “A lot of people feel there’s not a lot of need on the Eastside but there is, it’s just hidden.”
Donors and volunteers alike appreciate that close to 85 cents of every dollar donated goes directly to local people in need, says president-elect Mahrukh Motafram. “We’re very proud of that!
Assistance League focuses on 4 philanthropic programs
- Operation School Bell: A signature program of Assistance League, Eastside volunteers raise more than $400,000 annually to serve some 3,500 students. Volunteers work with guidance counselors at Bellevue, Lake Washington and Northshore School Districts to host annual shopping events at Fred Meyer, where elementary students pick out $100 in new clothing, and middle and high school students select up to $150 of back-to-school apparel.
When kids don’t have to worry about fitting in, they are more successful. Guidance counselors report that 60 per cent of the students show increased confidence, get along well with their peers and in turn get better grades.
“All of our programs are very important but with Operation School Bell we get to see the impact first-hand,” Motafram says. “You see how our donors and volunteers have made such a difference in the life of a child, for something as simple as a new pair of shoes.”
- Assault Survivor Kits: These kits are designed to help children, women and men who are survivors of assault. Because clothing is typically kept by police as evidence when someone is assaulted, survivors can be left with nothing to wear. Kits include sweat pants and top plus a hygiene kit with pre-pasted toothbrush, shampoo, body wash and hairbrush/comb. Serving 41 hospitals across Washington State, Assistance League of the Eastside members drive as far as Spokane to deliver kits to hospitals.
- Starting Over Support: Partnering with LifeWire, Dawn and New Beginnings organizations to support domestic violence survivors, volunteers provide food and backpacks filled with basic items for people placed in hotels, and baskets of essentials for families entering the shelter. “When someone leaves an abusive situation, they typically have only what they can carry, so we provide them with something new and a few necessities. Something as simple as a fresh new towel can have such an impact,” Vacknitz says.
- Help4Homeless: Partnering with The Sophia Way in Bellevue, Acres of Diamonds in Duvall, and The New Bethlehem Project in Kirkland, Help4Homeless provides welcome baskets filled with more than 30 basic need items and an encouragement card to individuals entering local shelters. “We work directly with the shelters so we can respond to what their needs are,” Vacknitz says.
How you can help: An Evening in the Tropics and more!
The Assistance League of the Eastside hosts special events through the year to support its programs, including the Holiday Home Tour in December and this spring’s Evening in the Tropics, welcoming the community for dinner, dancing and philanthropy at the Snoqualmie Casino Ballroom March 16. Come enjoy dinner, dancing to music by The Herding Cats and the opportunity to “Raise the Paddle” to help individuals and families in need.