Roosevelt School operation school bell

Kaylove Pedroza (center) with his brothers Skyler and Caspian get to know one of the BARK therapy dogs Saturday at Operation School Bell, a giveaway put on by the Rick Rackers of the Assistance League at Roosevelt School.

The need was there. The money is here, and now the facility has opened.

Assistance League Long Beach has begun serving more of the city's children at the new Miller Children's Center with needed orthodontic care, new school uniforms and school supplies. The Assistance League has been doing both of those things for some time — but now they can do it for more children in a state-of-the-art facility.

That's thanks to a capital campaign that has raised $6.1 million in just more than one year. It has allowed the organization to buy the commercial building next to its longtime home, the Philanthropic Center at 6220 E. Spring St. and turn it into the Miller Children's Center.

That center opened last month with a larger, more modern orthodontic clinic capable of serving nearly 1,000 children a year — children who would go without braces or other needed dental care otherwise.

It also offers enough space to allow Operation School Bell, run by the Rick Rackers auxiliary, to serve up to 12,000 Long Beach Unified School District students with uniforms, backpacks and materials they likely would not have otherwise. Now work has begun on the Philanthropic Center to remodel it for space to tutor and mentor children, create meeting space and expand the renowned Howard and Asian Art Collection. 

While there have been literally hundreds of donations, a few large grants have made the biggest difference. The lead gift of $1.25 million came from the Earl B. and Loraine H. Miller Foundation — hence the Miller Children's Center. Not far behind was the Cherese Mari Laulhere Foundation's $1 million gift — and the Laulhere Philanthropic Center.

Just last month, the John Apostle and Helen Apostle Foundation donated $500,000, putting the capital campaign over the top and prompting the Assistance League to name the Apostle Operation School Bell Pavilion. 

“We are also proud to announce that both the S. Mark Taper Foundation and The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation made 6-figure gifts to the campaign in September," capital campaign chair Cynthia Terry said. "To see such local and regional support for the work of Assistance League of Long Beach is very gratifying…

“It is our vision that no child should be denied access to quality health care or educational opportunities because of limited financial means.”

Assistance League’s Creating Smiles Campaign also received earlier lead gifts of $250,000 from two other Long Beach foundations: The Rudolph J. and Daphne A. Munzer Foundation and the RuMba Foundation. The campaign also benefitted from $250,000 lead gifts from two individual Long Beach families:  Mary Alice and Bob Braly and Suzanne and Doyle Powell.

“We are deeply honored that these leading Long Beach foundations selected Assistance League as the vehicle to express their philanthropic visions,” Assistance League President Penny Wilds said. “The founders of these institutions were each Long Beach residents whose legacies live on through their foundations and through the good works of the organizations they support.”

With construction underway at the Philanthropic Center, a campus-wide grand opening is being planned for early 2020. At completion, the Assistance League operation will have grown to giving 1,000 children a year orthodontic care (from 400 sets of braces 13 years ago), and Operation School Bell will have nearly tripled the number of students it serves, to 12,000 a year.

Assistance League of Long Beach currently is the largest chapter in the country, with nearly 870 members. For more information, go to www.ALLB.org, or call 562-627-5650.

Harry Saltzgaver can be reached at hsalt@gazettes.com.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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