Students will start school off right

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Over 200 area children were served by the seventh annual Barry County OACAC Neighborhood Center School Readiness Fair held at the Family Life Center in Cassville on July 21.

"I know there are families that can't afford to buy school supplies for their kids," said Gail Jenkins, Barry County OACAC director. "I can't imagine being a kid and going to school the first day with nothing to take.

"The School Readiness Fair puts each child on an even footing," said Jenkins. "Our hopes are that if these children are able to start the school year on a positive note, it will give them success and keep them motivated throughout the school year."

The 2006 School Readiness Fair set a new record by supplying backpacks and school supplies to 241 kids. The fair served children from school districts in Cassville, Washburn, Wheaton, Exeter, Purdy, Crane and Verona.

Share Your Christmas provided each child with a complete outfit of clothing.

"We asked parents to put their children's clothing size on their application, and we divided the clothes up ourselves to save time this year," said Jenkins.

Whitney Lawson and Kristy Koehler, from Electric Beach, also supplied free children's haircuts to help prepare kids for the first day of school.

"I know there are a lot of parents that can't afford to get everything their child needs before school starts," said Lawson. "We wanted to provide this service to allow the kids to get their haircut along with the other things they receive."

"We were very excited that Electric Beach volunteered to add the free hair cuts to the fair this year," said Jenkins. "We had a lot of little girls that were thrilled with their hair."

Families attending the fair were also able to pick up free information on healthcare, children's advocacy services, drug use prevention, physical fitness and gun safety from a variety of booths set up by local organizations.

Booths included: the Boy Scouts, Camp Invention, the Girl Scouts, Missouri Hunter Education, University Extension, Trio Educational Opportunity Center, Crowder College Watley Center, OACAC Head Start, St. John's Hospital, the Barry County Health Department, the Department of Social Services Family Support Division, Southwest Middle School counseling services, the Cassville Branch Library, Drug and Alcohol Resistance Education (DARE) and YMCA Recreation and Gymnastics of Cassville.

"We had some great booths with some great information for the families to pick up," said Jenkins. "Everyone seemed pleased with the fair. It was very successful."

Many area businesses and organizations donated school supplies, funds and services to help make the School Readiness Fair possible. School supply bins, which allowed community members to contribute to the event, were also set up at several area businesses.

"We couldn't host the fair without our volunteers," said Jenkins. "If we didn't have the many people who donate their time to help with the event, we wouldn't be able to take on this big of a project."

Volunteers helped collect school supplies, pack backpacks and divide children's clothing in preparation for the fair. During the event, volunteers were on hand to help families through the School Readiness Fair process.

The 2006 OACAC Neighborhood Center School Readiness Fair volunteers included: Stacia Holmes, Melody Hodge, Ashley Line-barger, Willa Fry, Iris Slater, Amie Reed, Jamie Stephens, Connie Lauderdale, Clint Bradford, Peggy Clark, Kyle Evatt, Codie Evatt, Brice Fields, Andrea Bland, Kylee Hrcheck and Christine Farnum.

Families who did not pick up school supplies at the fair may do so by visiting the Neighborhood Center at 907 N. Main St. in Cassville. School supplies will be handed out until all supplies are gone.

Registration for the Barry County OACAC Neighborhood Center School Readiness Fair is held each June. For more information, call 847-2140.

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