By Connie Llanos, Staff Writer | LA Daily News | http://bit.ly/aP0rov
<< Stacey Kwiatkowski holds up a shirt to check the size for Jennifer Herrera, 8, on Thursday. Jennifer was one of some 200 children from 32 elementary schools in the San Fernando Valley who received the super-sized goody bag, thanks to the Assistance League of Southern California and its Operation School Bell on wheels program. ( John McCoy/Staff Photographer)
PHOTO GALLERY: http://bit.ly/c7jltw - A Big-rig tractor and trailer showed up at Saticoy Elementary school Thursday to distribute school clothing to needy kids. Operation School Bell, an outreach program from the Assistance League of Southern California, was on hand, along with volunteers from Universal Studios, to provide clothing for students from 32 schools in the San Fernando Valley. Each of the children received two white polo shirts, two navy blue bottoms (shorts, pants, shorts or jumper), a belt, five pairs of underwear, one pair of shoes, five pairs of socks, a jacket, a backpack, a grooming kit, and a book. Universal Studio employees also provided a gift of clothing to the children to take home for a parent or sibling. North Hollywood, CA.11-4-2010. (John McCoy/staff photographer)
11/04/2010 06:06:01 PM PDT - Holding a giant brown paper bag nearly the size of her tiny frame, five-year-old Marisol Garcia made her way toward the books.
"I want that one," she said, picking the one pink ballerina picture book from dozens of other books on the table.
Grabbing the book was the final step for the kindergartner who on Thursday also received a bag full of clothes and shoes and backpack complete with a dictionary and notebook at Saticoy Elementary in Sun Valley.
Marisol was one of some 200 children from 32 elementary schools in the San Fernando Valley who received the super-sized goody bag, thanks to the Assistance League of Southern California and its Operation School Bell on wheels program.
Using a giant truck, full of dressing rooms and drawers full of pants, shirts, underwear and socks, volunteers from the Assistance League helped size and clothe the children, who were hand-picked for the donations from staff at their schools.
"Our families are going through some very hard times. This helps us get them through a couple of months with new shoes, uniforms and even toiletries," said Autumn Hickok, a school nurse at Glenwood Elementary.
For the last 50 years, Operation School Bell has doled out new clothes, shoes and backpacks to children in need.
"This is all about self-esteem and making these children feel like they are important and special," said Debby Berg, director of the Operation School Bell program.
Then 10 years ago the group received the truck as a donation, which has allowed them to make trips to dozens of Los Angeles Unified schools every year.
Working with an all volunteer team, Berg said it costs about $65 to dress every child with two sets of school uniforms, underwear, socks, shoes, a jacket and a backpack.
When she is lucky, Berg said she gets business partners to donate additional items, like Universal Pictures which on Thursday donated stacks of new books for children of all ages.
LAUSD board member Nury Martinez said the visits are welcomed by the schools in her community, some of which are in the most blighted neighborhoods in the region.
"I cannot think of a school in my district where there aren't families in need," Martinez said.
"This is really about giving families basic needs - like socks, and toiletries. For some, this is their back-to-school shopping."
A long-time volunteer with the Assistance League, Adriana Balaban said she loves to see the looks on the children's faces when they get their gifts.
"They are so grateful and happy... it's very satisfying to see that," Balaban said.
With her new uniforms, shoes and black backpack, Marisol said she was excited to tell her mom about all the new stuff.
Holding the pink book in her hand though, she said the favorite part of the day was walking away with her "ballerina."