Four students in yellow t-shirts wait for Assistance League volunteers to help get outfits for them at the chapter’s headquarters.
Students wait for Assistance League volunteers to help get outfits for them at the chapter’s headquarters. Credit: Courtesy photo

Summer is the right time for hundreds of local children to gain ground in reading and writing skills — and have fun in the water — with help from the Assistance League of Santa Barbara in partnership with United Way’s Fun in the Sun (FITS) program.

This summer, 346 youngsters in grades second through fifth are attending United Way’s six-week FITS summer enrichment program that offers academic sessions, water-safety lessons and fun times at area beaches and pools.

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

Now in its 24th year, FITS is serving students enrolled in Santa Barbara, Goleta, Carpinteria, Santa Ynez and Guadalupe schools, with programs running simultaneously at magnet sites in the various school districts.

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

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

Each FITS student is outfitted by the Assistance League with a swim suit, two shirts, two pairs of shorts, a beach towel, a water bottle, a hoodie sweatshirt, and a dental kit, stowed in a colorful drawstring backpack.

All items for students are new, many purchased from local stores. Recently, about 50 students spent part of a morning waiting to be outfitted by Assistance League volunteers at the chapter’s headquarters.

For one McKinley School fourth-grader named Martin, this is his second summer participating in FITS. He said he particularly enjoys beach outings.

“Any beach, I like them all,’’ Martin said.

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, is the local chapter’s Thrift Shop.

Open 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, the Thrift Shop is at 1259 Veronica Springs Road.

The Assistance League of Santa Barbara’s 350 members volunteer more than 50,000 hours each year, engaging in programs that benefit the lives of residents throughout the county.

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