Woman recognized for work organizing 'shopping' event for needy children

Connie Pollom receives Jefferson Award

INDIANAPOLIS - About 300 needy kids get a personal shopper twice a year to help them pick out a duffle bag and fill it with school supplies, personal hygiene items, a warm winter coat, clothes, school uniforms and books.

"You cannot believe how much they appreciate this. For instance, the duffle bag some of the children say they use them as their dressers," said Connie Pollom, who makes the special day possible as the driving force behind the program called Operation School Bell.

This is the first year kids get this special opportunity twice in one year.

"They're just so thankful and so sweet, and it's their personal day, just for them," Pollom said.

Pollom is the February recipient of the Jefferson Award for her work with Operation School Bell.

"Her tireless effort really gets all of what is seen here done," said Andrea Arbore, a volunteer who works with Pollom on the effort.

Ten years ago, 92-year-old Anne Schuster got Pollom involved in the Assistance League of Indianapolis, an all-volunteer organization that runs Operation School Bell.

"She said, 'I quit working. I'm ready to volunteer,'" Schuster said.

The Assistance League also gives survival kits to assault victims, teddy bears to people in need and shoes to low-income children.

As vice president of philanthropic programs for the assistance league, Pollom oversees it all.

That would be enough to get noticed, but Schuster said it's how Pollom does it that truly defines her.

"Her disposition is great, her enthusiasm is great, and her husband stands by her, his enthusiasm is great," Schuster said.

Marcia Hoffbauer, another volunteer with the Assistance League, agreed.

"In fact, I can't tell you how many times I've heard Connie go, to people, first words out of her mouth, 'What can I do to help?'" Hoffbauer said.

"Her enthusiasm, her motivation, her excitement for the children of Indianapolis is just infectious," Arbore added.

The smiles on the children are proof that Pollom helps make them feel special when so much in their lives doesn't.

"It's not just about the clothes, it's about the friendship, it's about the hugs, it's about the support, and that's what Connie offers," Arbore said.

Pollom said the experience has been rewarding for her.
"It's been the most fascinating experience. You get so much more than you give," Pollom said.

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