"I was very satisfied with the way this year's event turned out," said Gail Reed, Barry County OACAC director. "People were having fun with it, and I think they enjoyed it a little more this year. We had a very relaxed atmosphere."
In order to promote a more relaxed event, the Neighborhood Center made several changes to this year's back-to-school fair.
Neighborhood Center volunteers scheduled a limited number of families to visit the readiness fair at different times throughout the day, which relieved the crowding issues participants have experienced in the past.
"We tried to make the way the fair flowed smoother," said Reed. "Years in the past we have had a lot of families come to the fair at one time and then gaps when very few families came in.
"We shortened the time periods when families could come to the fair," said Reed. "It really worked. The event went very smoothly all the way through."
"We used the entire room, which made a big difference on the noise level," said Reed. "Some of the people I talked to said that they appreciated having time to hang around and get hair cuts. In the past they didn't feel like they had as much time."
Free children's hair cuts were provided by Electric Beach. Children attending the fair also received the majority of their school supplies, a backpack and a set of clothing, which was donated by Share Your Christmas.
"This year, the Barry County Neighborhood Center had the opportunity to order school supply kits," said Reed. "We supplemented the kits to make sure the kids had what they needed. We also packed school supplies that we received through donations."
Freedom Bank employees helped pack school supplies for the event. The bank employees also assisted in setting up booths and handing out supplies during the fair.
For the first time, children and families received hygiene kits, which included shampoo, tooth paste, a tooth brush, deodorant and soap, and Wal-Mart Vision Center was on hand to offer free vision screenings for children.
Families attending the fair were also able to pick up free information on healthcare, drug use prevention, physical fitness and community services from the assortment of booths that were sponsored by local organizations.
Marcia Hendrix, Southwest Elementary School counselor, offered parents information on bullying. This is the first time the topic was covered at the fair.
"I'm giving them each a newsletter to help start a successful school year," said Hendrix. "It includes tips for teachers and parents on bullying situations and what behavior to look for. I'm really happy to be involved with the fair this year."
Other booths were sponsored by: the Department of Social Services, the Barry County Health Department, St. John's Hospital-Cassville, the Barry County Soil and Water Conservation District, the Girl Scouts, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Crowder College, the Cassville Branch Library, Parents as Teachers and Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE).
Many individuals from the local community donated supplies, funds and services to help make the School Readiness Fair possible. Others volunteered their time to assist with the event.
The 2008 Barry County OACAC Neighborhood Center School Readiness Fair volunteers included: Jennifer Brattin, Sylvia Sturgeon, Marcos Gutierrez, Amanda McMillen, Hendrix, Willa Fry, Verna Fry, Gayla Treadwell, Aleesa Randall, Freedom Bank, Daliah Bradley, Jamey Bland, Tony Bland and Mike LeCompte, who assisted the Neighborhood Center by helping to deliver school supply kits to the Family Life Center for the event.
Families who were unable to pick up school supplies at the School Readiness Fair may do so by visiting the OACAC 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.