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T Q&A

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Cheryl Delawder is the president of the Assistance League of Tucson, a volunteer, philanthropic organization that provides essential goods and services to improve the lives of disadvantaged men, women and children in the Tucson area. The local chapter has been in operation 45 years. Delawder joined the Assistance League in January 2000 and became president in May 2004. Last year, volunteers served 45,000 hours on philanthropic projects to aid school children, assault survivors and other needy members of the community. The organization also runs a thrift shop at 1307 N. Alvernon Way, open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. For more information, call 326-8452.

As an unpaid volunteer, why do you like to contribute your time to the Assistance League?

Because this organization is so involved in the Tucson community. We are always looking for new ways that we can serve ... and we do it in a hands-on way, so we are really affecting the lives of the men, women and children of this community. We are actually involved with the projects we are supporting.

Are the projects the same at other Assistance League chapters across the country?

The only one that is a national project is Operation School Bell. Chapters can choose their own projects based on what the need in the community is. We make sure that we are not duplicating another service offered by another agency. We work with other local agencies in helping to provide what they need.

What is Operation School Bell?

Operation School Bell has been in operation 10 years. We have contracts with 28 schools. They pick the children who need clothing and bring them to our new philanthropic projects center. We are the volunteers who help the children shop and dress. In our first year, we dressed 300 children. Last year, we dressed 2,300. And this year, we will dress more than 3,000. And still we are not touching all of the need in the community. The children we dress are (in) kindergarten through fifth grade.

Who donates the clothing?

For School Bell, it's all brand-new. We purchase it with monies that we receive through profits from the thrift shop, or from mail drives and grants. The community supports us in this project and in all of our projects.

What do the children receive?

Two brand-new outfits, a backpack filled with personal care items and homework supplies, a jacket, shoes, underwear and socks. It costs about $75 to dress them.

Tell me about some of the other projects.

In our Starting Over project, we provide new dishes, linens, household supplies and personal care items to clients of other local agencies such as CODAC, Youth on Their Own, Child Protective Services, etc. They tell us which clients need the items and what they need. ... They could be coming out of an abusive situation ... or a rehab, and they are setting up a household. Or they could have had some type of fire. ... In our Assault Survivor Kit program, we partner with SACASA, the state organization that deals with assault and abuse. We provide the victims of an assault basic clothing and care items to go home with. Last year, we helped more than 140 victims with that program.

What other projects assist children?

In our Educational Support Project, we do mentoring in two local schools. Our volunteers go into classrooms to help the teachers and work 1-on-1 with some of the children who need extra help. ... In Operation Tutor, our newest program, we are working with Sunnyside and Flowing Wells high schools. This is a peer-tutoring project. We provide the funds for the schools. The school is responsible for selecting the students who need to be tutored and the students who are academically eligible to do the tutoring.

I understand you have two auxiliary groups.

Yes, our first auxiliary is our Professional Association of Women's Services. It's mainly professional working women. Their biggest project is the Bears project. They give teddy bears to 16 agencies, and the agencies disburse them to children who need them. ... And our ASSISTEENS program helps teach and encourage young women (in high school) to become volunteers. They work on community projects and also in our thrift shop. They work a lot of hours, and we hope that we are encouraging them to a life of volunteering and giving back to the community.

What is the favorite part of your job?

Working with all of these dedicated women who give so much time and energy to this organization. It's just overwhelming to see how much work can be accomplished by these women--and all volunteers. None of them are being paid. We are doing it because we love the Assistance League and the projects that we support.

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