By Maya Malekian & Sam Ryan
On November 10th, Universal Studios in Hollywood hosted the 12th annual “Day of Giving” event. The organization running the event, Operation School Bell, seeks to provide children from the Los Angeles Unified School District with the necessities each child needs to have an opportunity for an education. The parking lot in front of the park was filled with clothes, backpacks, and school supplies. Each child went through 6 different stations and picked up items to fill their backpacks with for school the next day. After receiving their supplies, the 250 children got to explore the Universal Studios Park. Many of the children who went to the event are homeless or come from poverty-stricken families. For some this was the first new pair of shoes they have ever received. Before the event, most of the children had two or three pairs of clothes that usually don’t fit or are severely worn out. As the children were leaving the stations with backpacks full, the smiles on their faces were priceless.
We had the opportunity to interview the CEO of the Assistance League of Los Angeles, Melanie Merians, to learn a lit bit more about the organization and why she has the heart to serve.
Maya Malekian: What motivated and inspired you to be a part of Operation School Bell?
Melanie Merians: I joined the Assistance League of LA’s Operation School Bell because I recognized a great need from the LAUSD school children. Most of these students live below the poverty line thus I felt responsible to serve these children as I became aware of their needs.
Mrs. Merians further explained that Operation School Bell services 5,000 LAUSD school children a year while the LAUSD school system includes 14,000 that are homeless without accounting for thousands and thousands below the poverty line without access to education.
Melanie Merians: My favorite experience is when a child has the biggest smile on their face as they get a new pair of shoes because for many it’s their first pair of new shoes. Usually they get hand-me-downs and sometimes come in wearing their dad’s shoes all taped up to fit them. They feel so special with their new pair of shoes. It always reminds me why I do this.
As the students got ready for a buffet meal before entering the park, Sam and I reflected on the blessing we have to a Christian college-preparatory education at Maranatha. We were reminded of the privilege it is to be able to wake up and go to a school that equips its students for success in anything they can dream of. The opportunity to witness the joy in children who were not blessed with the same privileges as us truly reminded us to be grateful in what we’ve been blessed with and to share those blessings with others. A simple pair of shoes or new book or backpack brought the widest smiles to these children. The simple objects had a great value to the eyes of these children, while to me they were seen as expected belongings that could be acquired so easily. The children felt so proud in who they were as the Operation School Bell team members as well as Universal Studios rallied around to celebrate these children for who they are. The value of community is so essential to achieving a life filled with determination and gratitude. I was reminded the importance of just simply being someone’s cheerleader. As I walked around interviewing the children, they were so excited to have someone asking them to share their joys to others. II was reminded that even asking someone their name or how their day went can have such a lasting impact on one’s heart.
If I could bring back anything from this experience to the Maranatha community, it would be the gratitude and heart to serve that Operation School Bell had filled my heart with. We have been called to serve our brothers and sisters by whatever means possible. Whether it is by donating shoes, dollars, our time, or our prayer, we must recognize the responsibility we have to be there for others. By filling our hearts with gratitude, we fill our hearts with passion to serve because we are grateful for what we’ve been blessed with and hope to share those blessings with others. My encouragement to the community is that we may open our hearts to others and share our blessing with a heart full of gratitude.
For more information on how you can get involved, visit http://operationschoolbell.org.