Assistance League of Montgomery County
Assistance League is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to putting caring and commitment into action through community-based philanthropic programs. The more than 120 national chapters are vital, contributing parts of their communities. Assistance League is an organization that recognizes that it is the strength and power of volunteers that can make a lasting difference.
This caring and commitment inspired several residents of April Sound to “organize and affiliate.” In March 1985, a steering committee met; and in May 1986, Lake Conroe Auxiliary of Assistance League of Houston was certified as Houston’s first auxiliary. There were 41 charter members.
Prime Time Treasures was selected as the first philanthropic program of Lake Conroe Auxiliary in September 1985. Its purpose was to provide an outlet where senior citizens of Montgomery County could display and sell their crafts, providing personal satisfaction for the craftsmen and additional income to enhance their quality of life.
To support the Prime Time Treasures Program, Lake Conroe Auxiliary of Assistance League of Houston Thrift Shop was established as a continuing fundraising activity. Within two years, the original 900 square-foot Thrift Shop quarters at 1018 Houston Street were too small, and the Thrift Shop was moved into a 2,700 square-foot building at 703 East Davis Street.
By February 1986, it was apparent the Auxiliary was capable of taking on more programs; and, again, many discussions occurred about suitable programs. In November 1986, the membership was presented with information about the Medical Center Hospital’s Poison Information Center, and in February 1987, member voted to select this as the second ongoing philanthropic program. The Auxiliary used funds to purchase a computer and software for the Poison Control Center, and members committed hours each month to assist the nurses in the office.
As the membership grew, so did the desire to reach out to the community. In April 1988, Operation School Bell®, the signature program of Assistance League, was established. It provided new school clothing and shoes for children who were referred by counselors of the Montgomery County school districts. The first year 33 children received clothing. This program continued to grow and expand its service area to all six school districts throughout Montgomery County. By 2006, every public elementary school in Montgomery County was invited to participate in referring their students. By 2008, the chapter had added two junior high schools to the referral list. For several years, hygiene kits and grade-appropriate books were passed out to students. Most recently, the program expanded to include the Dr. Seuss Reading Day, where volunteers read books to the elementary students. Operation School Bell celebrated its 50th year at the national level in 2010, having provided new clothing to more than two million students nationwide. In 2015, the program was expanded to include high school students, and the chapter celebrated clothing its 50,000th student that year. Also added to the program were the beginnings of a Kids on the Block puppeteer troupe
Poison Information – Always Ask ™, began its evolution from the members’ work with the Poison Information Center and was presented for the first time in November 1988 with a story, the introduction of “Auxiliary Annie” and the phrase, “Always Ask.” Members presented an educational program about the dangers of poisonous substances in and around the home to children at the Montgomery County Library. Since then, it has grown to presentations in preschools, schools and day care centers throughout Montgomery County.
Assault Survivor Kits® was approved by the membership in 1994. These kits contain clothing and hygiene supplies for victims of assault who have presented themselves to area hospitals for examination and collection of evidence. Tender Loving Care Dolls, handmade by our members, were added to this program in 1999 as a tool for therapy and comfort to children and adults.
In February 2006 the membership voted to separate Tender Loving Care Dolls into its own philanthropic program. Further expansion of the Assault Survivor Kits Program was made in May of 2006 with art and play therapy items being provided to area agencies that counseled abused and troubled children. Also added to the kits were t-shirts and handmade pillows and coverlets for the children undergoing examinations at Children’s Safe Harbor. In 2016 added to the program were trauma kits containing new clothes for area emergency room patients whose clothes have been destroyed in accidents or soiled due to illness.
Assistance League of Houston and the National Assistance League Board approved the status of Assistance League of Lake Conroe Area as a Guild of National Assistance League in 1994. On March 13, 1995, the Guild became the 92nd Chapter to be chartered by National Assistance League.
Several changes were made to the philanthropic programs in January 1997. Prime Time Treasures was discontinued and two new programs were added. The fourth program, Passport for Good Health™, provided parents with a diary to record their child’s immunizations and other health information. This Passport for Good Health was expanded in 2008 to include a health record for seniors.
In 1997 the fifth program, Fans for Friends, was begun. This program was developed to serve the senior residents of Montgomery County by providing box fans in the summer and blankets in the winter. In 2013 the program was expanded to serve any individuals in need.
Assistance League of Lake Conroe Area leased a 4,500 square-foot space in Woodcreek Shopping Center at 2017 North Frazier in June of 1997. This facility provided space for the Thrift Shop, storage for the five philanthropic programs, a Board Room and an office.
In 2000, the first steps were taken to look for sites to build the chapter’s own facility. An acre of property at the corner of San Jacinto and Collins in downtown Conroe was purchased in 2002, and construction began in October of that year. The new 8,000 square-foot facility was completed in June 2003. The Thrift Shop opened for business in the new location on July 7, and a ribbon-cutting and “Grand Opening Celebration” honoring special supporters, were held on July 10, 2003. The new building, located at 126 North San Jacinto Street, housed the Thrift Shop and work area, a programs room, separate Operation School Bell rooms, a computer room, a meeting room and a kitchen.
The membership of Assistance League of Lake Conroe Area approved a name change for the organization in 2003. The new name, Assistance League of Montgomery County, better reflected the demographic makeup of the membership.
The loan for the new building was paid in full in December 2004. This was made possible by a sizeable gift from the James D. Nunan Estate. In 2006, in honor of Mr. Nunan, the membership approved a new philanthropic program, Scholarship. Scholarships were first awarded to Montgomery County high school seniors who planned to enroll in a four-year Texas college or university and major in the social sciences or a helping profession. Over the years the program expanded to include a number of types of scholarships. In 2016 the program includes the following multiple-tier program:
- Texas University/College $4,000 Scholarships given to graduating Montgomery County high school seniors who have been accepted to a Texas four-year university/college and are majoring in a discipline that allows the student to serve the community.
- Scholarships given to graduating Montgomery County high school seniors who have been accepted to a Texas two-year college.
- Continuation Scholarships which provide education funds and assistance to students who received the $4,000 scholarship and are enrolled in their sophomore, junior or senior year in a four-year Texas university/college.
- Nontraditional Scholarships given to students who attend public colleges and universities to develop work skills in response to life- or work-altering events.
- Certification Scholarships which provide tuition for adults who want to become certified in health care careers.
- Scholarship funds provided for physically-challenged or special needs individuals who lack the financial resources to participate in therapeutic programs that can improve their well-being and functional skills.
In addition, because Assistance League of Montgomery County believes the success of the student is critical, Scholarship Committee members commit to mentoring at least one student during the school year to help him/her successfully transition to the college setting.
Mayor Tommy Metcalf proclaimed Assistance League of Montgomery County Day in Conroe in 2008. He also established the Tommy Metcalf Endowment - Assistance League of Montgomery County Fund. Distribution of available income has been made annually.
The Community Outreach Program was approved in 2008--becoming our eighth philanthropic program. This program allowed Assistance League of Montgomery County to address a range of unmet community needs on a one-time or short-term basis and collaborate with other 501(c)(3) organizations. However, the program was terminated in 2015 because of lack of use.
The ninth program, Pass It On, was approved in 2010. Unsold merchandise from the Thrift Shop is “passed on” to other service agencies in the Montgomery County area to be distributed to their clients. The items cannot be resold.
The tenth program arose out of Community Outreach when it was realized some of the needs being fulfilled would continue to occur on a regular basis, not just on a one-time basis. The Caring and Sharing Program was created so the chapter could continue providing basic needs items to the homeless and individuals in transition. “Welcome Home” baskets and trunks filled with linens, housewares and personal care items, etc., are given to individuals in need.
The Thrift Shop has been an ongoing source of pride for the Chapter. In 2010 the building was remodeled to provide an additional 3,800 square feet of meeting, work and sales space. Steadily-increasing sales have translated into more funds being provided to Montgomery County residents through the chapter’s philanthropic programs.
Assistance League is coming to be known as a prominent philanthropic organization in the community through public relations campaigns at both the national and chapter levels. Locally the chapter participates in two Chambers of Commerce and takes an active part in special events sponsored by the City of Conroe. Exposure in the community is expanded as the Thrift Shop Committee organizes fashion shows, taking specially-selected items of merchandise and fashions “on the road” to community associations throughout the county. The fashion shows bring an additional source of income, as well as increasing awareness of our mission.
On April 1, 2015, the chapter celebrated its 30th anniversary, with a ribbon-cutting by Mayor Webb Melder and the Conroe Area/Lake Conroe Chamber of Commerce, as well as other dignitaries. Mayor Melder proclaimed it Assistance League Day in Conroe, and the chapter received a wide variety of media coverage, making it a very successful event.
As in its beginnings in 1985, the now 200+ all-volunteer organization continues to put caring and commitment into action in Montgomery County with “hearts with care and hands that share.”