COLUMBIA- For the first time, 13 sponsors are gathering at a large fair to ensure Columbia’s children have what they need to go back to school.
Over one thousand backpacks, thousands of dollars worth of school supplies and many back-to-school services will be available at the Boone County Back To School Health Fair at Calvary Baptist Church on Ridgeway Avenue.
Linda LaVere has been working late every night this week preparing for the big event. On Wednesday night, the financial associate of Calvary Baptist Church and a group of dedicated volunteers were busy packing donated pencils, notebooks, pens and rulers into about 1,200 colorful backpacks.
In assembly-line fashion, the backpacks were filled with school supplies. The backpack donations alone were worth more than $10,000, LaVere said.
Besides the backpacks, volunteers from the sponsor organizations will hand out paper bags containing folders, scissors, glue, protractors, crayons and other items depending on the children’s grade levels.
“We’re hoping we’ll get those that don’t have the money to buy supplies,” LaVere said. “But we won’t turn anyone from Boone County away.”
Thirty vendor booths will provide back-to-school services, such as free hearing and vision tests, dental screenings and haircuts. Children can also pick up everything they need to look and smell good for the first day of school, such as new packs of socks and underwear. Personal hygiene products, such as shampoo and deodorant, will also be given away.
“A lot of parents say, ‘This is a big help because we are strapped for cash,’” said Cindy Mustard, executive director of the Voluntary Action Center, which provides local family assistance and coordinates efforts of local social-service organizations.
But it’s not all about school supplies.
A fire truck will be there to entertain children as well as the Bookmobile from the Columbia Public Library, free hot dogs from Columbia Foods, and gallons of lemonade provided by The Salvation Army.
Even though many preparations are adone, people can still donate more supplies to the cause, said LaVere, whose church is asking concerned citizens to contribute new packages of socks and underwear.
Mustard said theyis still a need for supplies for older children going into middle school or high school, such as dividers with tabs and calculators.
“A lot people remember the crayons and rulers for the younger kids,” she said. “But we want to help all ages to succeed in school so we are also in need of items for middle, junior and high School
The fair’s sponsors are the Central Missouri Community Action Corp., Calvary Baptist Church, Boone County Partnership, The Salvation Army, Urban Empowerment, Voluntary Action Center, Boone Hospital Center, KOMU TV, First National Bank, Success Community, Fun City, Rainbow House, and Boone County Health Department.
Missourian reporter Annee Tousseau contributed to this report.