Since 1940, a group of volunteers in San Bernardino has been serving local children in need. Launched as the Toy Loan League by a small group of women, the group became the 9th chapter of the National Assistance League in 1947.

The following year, the chapter worked with a group of dentists to open the Dr. Earl R. Crane Children’s Dental Health Center. Since it’s inception, the all-volunteer organization has been helping children grin with confidence. The Assistance League provides general dentistry services to students aged 5 to 25 in the San Bernardino Unified School District.

The organization visits schools throughout the district providing care without requiring insurance. Volunteers help with paperwork and organizing the program while the chapter’s dentist and dental hygienist works with the students. Last year the Assistance League provided 308 oral exams, 308 fluoride treatments and 799 sealants.

Alejandra Galindo, D.D.S. is the dental center’s fulltime dentist and is also bilingual, allowing the organization to better serve the Spanish-speaking community. Some children and their families are afraid to go to the dentist because of the language barrier or out of concern for not having insurance according to Malla Tillman, the organization’s president.

Services are provided for $25 a visit, but no child who cannot afford the fee is turned away.  New patients living in the city of San Bernardino and the surrounding communities in need of care are encouraged to make an appointment.

Assistance League of San Bernardino is also able to provide orthodontia for some children every year depending on available funding. This year the chapter provided braces for 8 different students.

“It’s amazing when you interview the students to discover how much braces can change the confidence of a person’s life,” Tillman said. “That we are able to do that for a limited amount of students every year is absolutely wonderful.”

Assistance League also provides clothing to children in need through its Operation School Bell Program. Once a month throughout the school year, children who have been referred by the school district have the opportunity to shop with a volunteer at Walmart for clothing. Students participating in the program also receive a backpack, a book and a “ditty bag.”  Ditty bags are filled with hygiene items including shampoo, conditioner, bar soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant and a hairbrush.

“We have kids who have never had their own toothbrush or their own clean socks and pajamas,” Tillman said. “We hear these stories every month.”

Recently, Assistance League of San Bernardino received a grant from the Community Impact Fund through the Inland Empire Community Foundation. The all-volunteer organization depends on grants, donations and fundraisers to provide its services to children in the community.

Currently, the organization has 33 members and another 25 members of the Les Confreres Auxiliary group who support fundraising efforts and volunteer their time. The organization welcomes new members who are passionate about assisting local children in need of clothing and dental services in the community. Membership dues are $110 for the first year and $80 for each subsequent year. Members are also required to assist with the organization’s fundraisers.

This fall, the organization will hold a Wine and Food Under the Stars event. The date of the event will be announced on the organization’s website soon. In addition, each spring the Assistance League also holds a Headdress Ball Fundraiser. All proceeds support the organization’s programs.

“Come join us for our fall fundraiser to learn more about us and help us support the students,” Tillman said. “And we are always open to new members.”

More information: https://www.assistanceleague.org/san-bernardino/ or (909) 885-3085

This article originally appeared in the Press Enterprise, August 2022.

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