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Students receive a meal and show at Assistance League location in Ellisville

Dunbar Elementary student Santanna helps Ronald McDonald with a magic act.

On Sept. 20, a bus of about 60 students from Dunbar Elementary arrived at the Assistance League of St. Louis’s Ellisville location for a sweet surprise: a free meal, dessert and a show.

“These students have come for uniform fittings before, but never for something like this,” Jane Harbon, past league president, said. “This is truly an exception.”

The Assistance League of St. Louis paid for 75 Happy Meals for the students, with additional cakes and a magic show by Ronald McDonald provided by Banducci Enterprises Inc. of Creve Coeur, which owns the Ellisville McDonald’s. The event on Sept. 20 was the first ever collaboration between the two organizations.

Assistance League volunteer Pam Bogosian reads books about butterflies to Dunbar students

As part of the regular Operation School Bell program, students also received extra uniform shirts, a fleece, extra bottoms, socks, hygiene items an an age-appropriate book. The retail price for the entire bundle per student would have been about $107. Instead, the items are purchased by the Assistance League of St. Louis directly from suppliers to be given to students free of charge.

“Many of these kids grow out of their uniforms every year,” Harbon said. “A lot of the kids also come from schools where uniforms are highly required or completely mandatory.”

The Assistance League is a national nonprofit organization that conducts community-based philanthropic programs that are volunteer run. The Operation School Bell program runs from early August to November, and about 54 days a year are dedicated to fitting St. Louis students with clothes. The league sees an average of 60 local students a day.

The program has provided over 9,808 local elementary school students with fitted uniforms, books and hygiene products, and the Steps to Success program has visited over 32 schools to deliver shoes and socks to 3,310 elementary students. The organization also helps women across the city and county. For example, Project ROSE [Raise Our Self Esteem] volunteers create gift bags with clothing and personal care items to sexual assault survivors.

Classmates Kaleigh [left] and Santanna [right] enjoy Happy Meals and cake

Students retrieve their bundles from league volunteers to be delivered at the school

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