South Lake students receive free shoes

Laney Griffo
In past years, students were taken on shopping trips to K-Mart.

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – About 200 South Lake Tahoe students received new shoes thanks to fundraising efforts by Operation School Bell.

Operation School Bell is an arm of the Assistance League Sierra Foothills, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that aims to transform lives and strengthen communities through philanthropic programs within El Dorado County.

Operation School Bell raises money to take at-risk youth on shopping trips, allowing them to pick out their own, new clothes. This year, the organization partnered with wholesalers to allow children to pick out their own shoes.

Debbie McClenahan, Operation School Bell Chairman said when students have ill-fitting and hand-me-down clothes, it can hurt their self-esteem.

“The kids come into school with new stuff and they feel like they’re in the in-crowd,” McClenahan said.

Each year, Operation School Bell works with the school districts to get a list of kids who qualify for the program. This year, they were able to help about 200 students in South Lake Tahoe and about 1,000 students throughout the whole county.

In the past, students were taken on a shopping trip to K-Mart where they got to pick out their own clothes. With the closing of K-Mart and COVID-19 protocols, the students weren’t able to go on a shopping trip this year.

Still, the students were more than happy to receive new shoes.

“I’ve never had shoes like these, I really like them,” one student told Nicole Zunino, School Counselor, South Tahoe Middle School the day she handed out shoes.

Another student told her, “Thank you so much! Having new shoes is really helpful in my life.”

McClenahan said Operation School Bell could use more financial help, especially in South Lake Tahoe where the program isn’t as well-known as it is in the rest of the county.

“There is so much need and with the Caldor Fire and COVID, it’s getting worse,” McClenahan said.

They are asking for donations of about $100, which could help outfit one student, although any amount helps.

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