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Assistance League of Las Vegas plans 4,000-square-foot expansion

The Assistance League of Las Vegas is outgrowing its space and hopes to kick off construction next year on a 4,000-square-foot addition.

The nonprofit’s facility, which includes a thrift store and an office building, is 21 years old, President Liz Gibson said.

“It’s hard to believe we’re actually outgrowing it,” she said.

Due to a lack of storage space, pieces of furniture from the Assistance League Thrift Shop spilled over Aug. 23 into the front lobby of the nonprofit’s office on West Charleston Boulevard.

The Assistance League is working with an architect on plans for an addition, which would provide more space for the thrift store, community programs and storage. Ideally, groundbreaking will happen in January, Gibson said.

More than two decades ago, the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation — which has since ceased operations — funded the building. Assistance League members raised $1.6 million for land and an endowment.

It was a big step for the nonprofit. When it launched in the 1970s, “we actually started in a little storefront,” Gibson said.

The Assistance League of Las Vegas — a chapter of a national organization — is a nonprofit, all-volunteer group founded in 1976. It provides programs and services to children and adults in need.

Its biggest program, Operation School Bell, provides clothing to more than 8,000 children each year. This school year, the program begins this week and continues until April.

The Assistance League’s work has drawn the attention of city officials. It was recognized Aug. 7 as citizen of the month by the Las Vegas City Council.

Mayor Carolyn Goodman and Councilman Brian Knudsen presented the award. Knudsen told the Las Vegas Review-Journal he does a lot with nonprofits, and several of his neighbors are members of the Assistance League.

After going on a tour and completing an orientation, Knudsen became a member. He said he was astounded by how well the nonprofit is run.

“I just think it’s a really, really cool nonprofit,” he said.

Knudsen volunteered for one shift as a monitor for Operation School Bell. He oversaw a group of students coming in to get clothing.

The Assistance League is a well-kept secret, Knudsen said.

“I think the community maybe doesn’t know what the Assistance League is” and may see it as only a thrift store, he added.

Of the nonprofit’s $1.1 million in income for the 2018-19 program year, nearly half came from the thrift store.

“Our thrift store, of course, keeps our lights on,” Gibson said.

But the nonprofit offers many programs beyond its thrift store, including Operation School Bell. And this year, it plans to award $200,000 in scholarships, which are administered by the Public Education Foundation.

“Everything we do stays in this community,” said Laura Rehberger, who’s on the public relations committee for the Assistance League.

The local chapter has about 400 volunteers. They’re called “members” and pay dues, which totaled $32,122 for 2018-19. Each year, voting members are asked to commit to 16 shifts, each of which is 3½ hours.

Two Assistance League auxiliaries also offer volunteer opportunities: Desert Sage, which has evening options, and Assisteens for seventh through 12th grade students.

Operation School Bell

Operation School Bell serves children Mondays through Saturdays. The program, a nationwide Assistance League offering, provides new items such as clothing, shoes, fleece blankets, books, hygiene kits and school supplies for children.

Clark County School District campuses nominate children and provide transportation for them to and from the Assistance League. Last school year, the nonprofit served 8,032 children through Operation School Bell, according to an annual report.

Some children are quiet at first while looking for clothes but get excited once they start trying on items, Rehberger said. Some have never shopped for new clothes.

“There’s a true need,” said Gibson, a Las Vegas native.

Another program the Assistance League of Las Vegas runs: AL’s Closet, which served 3,201 children last school year. Fifty-two Clark County elementary schools are served, and the nonprofit hopes to expand to several more this school year.

The program allows elementary schools to have clothing items on hand in case students need them. Each school has a $1,500 yearly budget and gets an order sheet to specify which items it needs most.

Contact Julie Wootton-Greener at jgreener@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2921. Follow @julieswootton on Twitter.

How to help

Donations to the thrift store can be dropped off from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays at 6446 W. Charleston Blvd. in Las Vegas. The thrift shop is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.

For more information about the Assistance League or to volunteer, call 702-870-2002 or email assistanceleaguelv@gmail.com.

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