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Assistance League serves teens

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Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Roughly 2,100 students in high-poverty Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools get nutritious daily snacks, roughly 1,800 a year get clothing for school, and 44 have received over $108,000 in college scholarships.

Nearly 140 teens who plead guilty to first-time offenses have successfully completed community-service projects ordered by a court run by teens.

And roughly 10 agencies serving people in need receive items their clients can use.

Overseeing all those efforts has been Assistance League of Charlotte, an all-volunteer group formed in 1995 as a chapter of National Assistance League.

With an annual budget of $459,310, the nonprofit generates funds through sales at its thrift shop that in May 2006 relocated to larger quarters.

After generating over $302,000 in revenue in its first full fiscal year of operation, the new shop generated $225,756 in the first eight months of the current fiscal year.

In addition to providing more space in which Assistance League can store more and bigger donated products, and stage special sales, the new location also makes it easier for shoppers to park and gives the store greater visibility, says Jane Rosinski, the group’s president.

“And it’s just growing every day,” she says.

The mission of Assistance League, which counts on a corps of 125 active members who last year contributed over 33,000 volunteer hours, is to “enable every child to succeed,” Rosinski says.

Specifically, the agency works to feed, clothe, mentor and educate children in need, she says.

Each Friday, for example, agency volunteers deliver three days’ worth of pre-packaged snacks to seven elementary schools, and deliver fresh fruit the other two days.

Three days a week, school personnel drive students to the Assistance League center to select new clothes for school.

And two Tuesday evenings each month at the Mecklenburg County Courts Building, the agency holds its teen court.

Run by teens the agency recruits and trains as jurors, clerks, bailiffs, jury foremen and attorneys, and with professional lawyers and judges volunteering as judges, the court gives teen offenders a chance to take responsibility for their own actions and avoid a criminal record while learning how the legal-justice system works.

Providing most of the funds for the agency’s programs is its thrift shop.

Replacing a 4,650-square-foot store it operated at 3821 South Blvd. is a larger store in the new center the agency leases at 3600 S. Tryon St., three miles south of the center city.

The center is home to the 8,000-square-foot retail store, plus the agency’s offices and philanthropic programs, along with warehouse space that houses donated clothing, furniture and other household goods, artwork, books and toys.

The agency now uses some of its warehouse space for special sales four times a year, and also is using the additional space to house donations it is receiving through a partnership with La-Z Boy Southeast.

Developed through a relationship the agency has with Southpark Rotary, La-Z Boy provides it with furniture in good condition that the company’s customers donate when they buy new furniture.

So far, La-Z Boy has delivered four semi-tractor-trailer loads of sofas, couches, chairs and recliners that have had a big impact on sales at the thrift store, Rosinski says.

This year, she says, Assistance League aims to grow its programs.

“The need in the community continues to grow,” she says.

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