Sales from Assistance League store help community
By LeAne H. Rutherford
Customers discover “fabulous finds” when they shop at the Assistance League of Sacramento’s upscale resale business on Fulton Avenue.
The Assistance League solicits donations of goods, sells them at Fabulous Finds on Fulton, and returns the money to the community through a variety of programs and projects.
With 22,000 members nationwide, this nonprofit philanthropic organization began almost a century ago. The Assistance League of Sacramento was chartered in 1968, and now boasts nearly 300 volunteer members.
“We are the keepers of the money the community gives us,” says Charlotte Stott, chair of marketing and communications. Astute money managers they are. The building that houses the resale store and league offices is mortgage free. Sales at Fabulous Finds on Fulton provide 85% of the league’s funding.
High-quality inventory is donated. Website guidelines advise, “…choose the very best of your items for our store. When in doubt, throw it out.”
Workers wearing matching, monogrammed, sunny yellow aprons sort, price, press and make donations retail-ready. Bins honeycomb the area. It is a hive of activity. Nothing goes to waste. Veterans’ groups receive excess goods not selected for sale.
Well-organized, the store is an inviting place to shop. Display teams and a professional designer arrange the merchandise. Racks are categorized with everything in its place. “Millennials are our market while baby boomers are downsizing,” Stott says.
“I love what we do,” says President Betty Beyer, who has a 12-year affiliation with the league. “Our flagship program, Operation School Bell, has worked with four districts and 49 schools, all Title 1, which supplements educational funding for low-income students.
“Last year we gave away 17,000 books for students to take home and for classroom use with emphasis on diversity. For some students, this is the first book they can call their own.”
Children receive backpacks, classroom supplies, toiletries, underwear and more. Operation School Bell also funds visual screening and assists young readers by pairing them with Book Buddies who work one-on-one with them as they learn to read.
Fresh Start, another flagship project, supports children as they age out of the foster care system at 18. They require help in setting up their lives for independent living. The Assistance League aids by giving them basics, such as bedding, pots and pans, a vacuum cleaner and other necessities to make that fresh start.
The organization also provides baby kits with bottles, blankets and other vital items for young mothers with infants still living in foster care.
A hundred applications came in for the $1,500 to $3,000 scholarships the Assistance League gives to community college students. Beyer enthusiastically describes one such scholarship winner. “He was living out of his car at the time. Now he has a Ph.D. from UC Davis and is teaching engineering.”
In conjunction with Women’s Empowerment, for the last decade the Assistance League of Sacramento has helped women dress for success by providing work-appropriate clothing for careers and confidence. Another project, Reaching Out, supports vulnerable and homeless individuals, referred by partner agencies, who need help. The league can provide housing assistance, transportation and employment needs.
The Teddy Bear program began with the California Highway Patrol in 1988. To date 561 cuddly, brown teddy bears, clad in blue Assistance League T-shirts, have found their way into the arms of children in emergency rooms, shelters and crisis nurseries, as well as those in senior facilities. “The bears calm the children,” Beyer says. They grab the bears, cuddle them for comfort and just hang on.
Sociability starts with Assistance League orientation classes. Class mentors, called “Moms,” bring their groups of 20 or so members up to speed, building chapter support skills. Each group has a name, such as Sparkling Sapphires, The Fascinators and The Mighty Nine.
Groups bond, often going to lunch, in addition to the league’s biannual lunches and monthly meetings. Fundraising golf tournaments provide another time to mingle. Beyer’s favorite is the April in Paris gala.
Participating with the Assistance League of Sacramento has many rewards. “It is so enriching,” Stott says. “It keeps you learning.”
Beyer notes, “We are always looking for ways to provide more.”
Members seek fulfillment from helping others. They seem to find it. The “fabulous finds” are more than the merchandise on Fulton Avenue. They are Assistance League members, too.
Fabulous Finds on Fulton and the Assistance League of Sacramento offices are at 2751 Fulton Ave. For information on donating or volunteering, visit assistanceleague.org/sacramento.
LeAne Rutherford can be reached at email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.