Outstanding service to children has landed the Assistance League of Tucson a $10,000 prize and national recognition for its philanthropic work.

Points of Light singled out the Tucson organization and nine others for service on last fall's annual "Make a Difference Day."

"What they have in common is that they have all gone to great lengths to make a difference in the lives of people in their community," said Stefanie Weiss, Points of Light's head communications officer.

The Assistance League of Tucson includes more than 400 members who donate more than 45,000 volunteer hours annually. Their work focuses on providing clothing to needy children, helping people who are starting life over after financial crisis and assisting assault survivors.

Last fall, they donated about 400 books for children in preschool through age 18 to the Southern Arizona Children's Advocacy Center.

Children at the center, who are in crisis, can read while waiting for interviews or medical services, and then take the book with them when they leave.

Kathy Rau, the advocacy center's executive director, said one of the best examples of how the books help occurred just recently.

A group of siblings who had been abused were brought to the center. The 8-year-old brother spent a long time talking with Rau and told her he had recently finished his first chapter book. He was, Rau said, very proud of that fact.

After his older sister was taken to a hospital and his younger sister placed in a Tucson foster home, it was determined he would be placed in foster care in Phoenix.

After putting together a bag of clothing and personal items, Rau took the young boy to the bookshelves.

"We searched for the simpler chapter books that interested him. "Goosebumps" and some other sillier stories caught his eye," Rau wrote in an email.

"He selected four books, and immediately began reading one."

Assistance League volunteer Mary Thalgott organized the drive.

Thalgott, a retired elementary school principal, said people donated books at their thrift shop, at 1307 N. Alvernon Way, and through members who asked family and friends.

"I think it's fabulous," she said of the national honor. "I think that the organization has done a lot of good work and it's something we're going to continue to do. Next year, hopefully, we'll get even more."

She said the book drive will begin again this fall, but people can drop new children's books at the thrift store any time.

Contact reporter Patty Machelor at 806-7754 or pmachelor@azstarnet.com