Barbie Butz is an independent columnist for The Atascadero News and Paso Robles Press; you can email her at barbiewb@hotmail.com.

Twenty-five years ago, I was involved with a small group of women here in SLO County whose goal was to establish a chapter of National Assistance League. We were called a “Guild,” and we had a checklist of requirements in order to become a chapter.

Several of us had been members of other chapters before moving to SLO County. I had ten years of experience in Santa Barbara, while others had experience in Southern and Northern California.

After working to establish our membership, develop a signature fundraiser, produce bylaws, and organize philanthropic projects, we received our charter on March 21, 1996. I had the privilege of serving two terms, the first term as Guild President and the second term as Charter President. Later, I also served as Chapter President 1999-2001.

Our primary philanthropic program was adopted in 1995. Operation School Bell (you may have seen the PSA on local TV) was created with the belief that when students go to school feeling confident about their appearance, it results in a more successful academic and social experience. Our program’s goal is to improve school attendance and participation by enabling students to attend school without feeling self-conscious or out of place due to a lack of proper clothing. This program provides new, school-appropriate clothing to students in need in grades K through 12 in San Luis Obispo County. Students are referred to Operation School Bell through school personnel and are scheduled to shop with our member volunteers and an adult who accompanies them at Kohl’s in North County and Old Navy south of the grade. To date, over 32,000 students have been clothed through this program since our chapter adopted the program and despite the challenges of the 2020 school year, we were still able to clothe 1,635 children.

Getting through this together, Atascadero

Funding for our philanthropic programs is raised through a variety of chapter events, the chapter’s Thrift Store, as well as through the generosity of private contributions, service organizations, and grants. We are an all-volunteer organization with over 100 members. Donations are fully tax-deductible.

On May 24, 2021, members of Assistance League of San Luis Obispo County gathered at the Jack House and Gardens in San Luis Obispo for the Annual Awards Luncheon and Installation of Officers. President Helen Robertson, from Paso Robles, presented the welcome and introductions. Clint Weirick, representing State Senator John Laird, presented a Community Service Award to the Chapter and Supervisor Debbie Arnold presented a Proclamation by the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors recognizing the work of the chapter.

Helen Robertson installed the 2021-22 Board of Directors that included President Judy Jiménez, VP Membership Sharon Fredricks, VP Philanthropic Programs Chris Pontius, VP Resource Development Jan Hutchinson, VP Marketing and Communications Cindy Cantrell, VP Strategic Planning Jo Anne Painter, Thrift Store Operations Manager Sue Pino, Recording Secretary Bonnie Long, Corresponding Secretary Lynn Ogden, and Treasurer Anna Aven.

Please visit our Thrift Store at 667 A Marsh Street, San Luis Obispo. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. For more information, visit alslocounty.org or call 805-782-0824.

Thank you for 25 years of support!

Cheers!