Assistance League volunteers help local schoolchildren select new clothing and swim wear to enjoy Fun in the Sun (FITS) activities in partnership with United Way of Santa Barbara County. | Photo: Pamela Gilbert

The Assistance League of Santa Barbara is offering an opportunity for hundreds of local children to gain ground in academic skills, while also enjoying time at area pools and beaches. Partnering with United Way’s Fun in the Sun (FITS) program, 346 children in 2nd to 5th grade are enrolled in the six-week program to help them hone in on their literacy skills, stay safe in the water, and participate in recreational outings.

With a budget of $70,000, the Assistance League’s contribution to FITS includes providing books and other literacy materials to help students maintain and advance their skills in vocabulary, reading, writing, and comprehension.

In addition to this, the Assistance League also funds water-safety classes that promote students’ physical fitness and confidence in the water.

“We’re helping children learn, stay engaged, and be safe during the summer,” said Julia Cirincione, chair of the Assistance League’s FITS committee.

The Assistance League provides each FITS student with a swimsuit, two shirts, two pairs of shorts, a beach towel, water bottle, sweatshirt, and a dental kit that is stowed in a colorful drawstring backpack. All the items for the students are brand new and are purchased from local stores.

Recently, about 50 students spent part of a morning waiting to be provided clothes by the Assistance League volunteers at the chapter’s headquarters.

One enthusiastic participant identified himself as Martin, a 4th-grader at McKinley School who particularly enjoys the beach outings. “Any beach — I like them all,” said Martin.

The local chapter’s thrift shop is the primary funding source for the Assistance League’s contribution to FITS, along with 13 other designated philanthropies and two auxiliaries: Las Aletas and Assisteens.

Located at 1259 Veronica Springs Road, the thrift shop is open Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays from 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. The 350 members of the Assistance League of Santa Barbara volunteer more than 50,000 hours each year, engaging in programs that benefit the lives of residents throughout the county.

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