Operation School Bell File Photo (copy)

Assistance League volunteers pass out backpacks filled with uniforms and school supplies at a previous Operation School Bell event.

Children and teens are already headed back to campus for a new school year in some school districts, but some are more prepared than others.

To help alleviate stress associated with new school supplies and clothing, Rick Rackers, an auxiliary of the Assistance League of Long Beach, is hosting its annual Operation School Bell item drive.

The drive puts together thousands of backpacks filled with notebooks, pencils and other supplies every year so students can head to class without the insecurities of not being prepared enough on the supply end. The organization provides about 10,000 backpacks filled with new uniforms and supplies every year.

As for clothing, elementary children receive two complete uniforms, including two polo shirts and two pants or skorts, three pairs of socks, undergarments and a jacket. Middle and high schoolers receive three uniform shirts and two pairs of pants and a sweatshirt. The cost per student is about $60 each. 

"We are always looking for items, donations and volunteers every year," Wendy Parden, volunteer, said. "The more people we can bring in to help, the better."

Some requested items include black and blue pens, colored pencils, spiral notebooks, washable markers and #2 pencils.

But this year, organizers said they want to do more to help.

"Teens especially need more hygiene items, and we want to include more in their bags too, in addition to school supplies," Parden said. 

Full sized deodorants, hair combs of all types, toothbrushes and toothpaste are being requested for the first time this year. Parden added that like school supplies, everyday hygiene items will help the students feel confident about heading to class each day.

There are a list of items to avoid purchasing as they won't be accepted at drop off locations. They are crayons, glue sticks, pencil top erasers, three-ring binders, highlighters, calculators, book covers, pencil pouches, scissors and rulers.

People can donate money online as well, which will be used to purchase supplies and uniforms. Donations can be made by going to assistanceleague.org/long-beach and selecting the "Donate" button on the top right of that page.

Next week, members are visiting nine area middle schools to record clothing measurements for incoming sixth graders. With the measurements, volunteers will do their shopping accordingly for uniforms and circle back in September for the first of two Operation School Bell giveaways.

The first is happening form 5 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 24, at the Assistance League's new Children's Center. The second is the organization's annual Action Packed event happening on Oct. 19 at Roosevelt Elementary School. Volunteers are still needed for both events.

For more information about the Assistance League of Long Beach, go to assistanceleague.org/long-beach. For questions about Operation School Bell or to make a donation over the phone, call 562-627-5650.

Stephanie Stutzman can be reached at sstutzman@gazettes.com.

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