Nearly 150 local students received school supplies at the annual Barry County OACAC Neighborhood Center School Readiness Fair held at the Crowder College Cassville Campus Community Center on Aug. 4
"I thought the fair turned out really good," said Gail Reed, Barry County OACAC director. "I was really impressed with the turnout, and we had some really good vendors this year.
"We had hearing and vision screenings and dental services," said Reed. "The kids got some really good information, and some great gifts, like hand sanitizer, toothpaste and toothbrushes."
The Neighborhood Center provided school supplies for 148 Barry County students this year. Drawings for free backpacks were held each hour of the fair, providing around 30 kids with backpacks for the school year.
"Supplies were down this year, which wasn't a surprise with the current state of the economy," said Reed. "We didn't get enough backpacks to give every student a backpack, but we were able to provide some students with backpacks.
"In addition to supplies, the kids received goodie bags and OACAC bags full of safety information provided by OACAC," said Reed.
The theme for this year's fair was "Around the World in 2011." Children were given passports, which were stamped by vendors participating in the fair. Each vendor also provide kids with gifts and information on local services and organizations.
Free dental examinations and fluoride brushing were offered by Area Community Health Emissaries (ACHE), Inc., of Anderson. The Lions Club offered free hearing screenings, and the Walmart Vision Center of Monett gave free vision screenings.
Other local businesses and organizations that participated in the event included: Missouri Southwest Parent Information and Resource Center (PIRC); the Barry County Health Department; the Department of Social Services Family Support Division; Girl Scouts; the Cassville Branch Library; St. John's Hospital; Crowder College Cassville Campus; Barry Electric; OACAC Head Start; MPACT; University of Missouri Extension; Electric Beach; Jan's HairTrax; ACCESS Family Care Clinic; and CoxHealth Center Cassville.
"We had great vendors," said Reed. "The library and PIRC gave out books, so each child went home with at least two books. ACCESS gave out some really neat school supplies, and St. John's offered information on injury prevention. All the vendors offered great gifts and information."
Families that attended the fair received free information on nutrition, healthcare, children's advocacy services and community programs.
"We always have great support from the people who come out and excellent volunteers," said Reed. "The volunteers in the kitchen this year did an amazing job providing great food for our vendors.
"Some of our board members served as volunteers during the fair," said Reed. "We also had teachers, counselors and school nurses from some of the local schools help out. I thought that was really neat for the kids to have contact with some of the professionals from the area schools."
Community members volunteered free time to pack school supply bags, prepare goodie bags, transport supplies to the Cassville Campus, register children, help vendors, cook and hand out supplies.
"Julie Bland is the unsung hero of the school fair," said Reed. "She does all of the planning and coordinating. She does an awesome job of getting everything together. Her work shows how she feels about this fair and helping these kids have a good start to the school year."
As a member of the Neighborhood Center staff, Bland has organized the School Readiness Fair for the last four years. She and Debbie Gemmecke, Neighborhood Center office assistant, were instrumental in planning this year's event, said Reed.
"It is always amazing to me how our community comes together to support this program," said Reed. "I don't think anything is more important than education for these kids and doing something that helps them get a good start is so important."
Volunteers who assisted with the 2011 School Readiness Fair included: Marcia Hendrix, Donna Youngblood, Brandon Burns, Brice Fields, Andi Bland, Janet McNeill, Jake McNeill, Natalie McNeill, Makayla Harvey, Gayla Treadwell, Timothy Steeley, Faye Paul, Dee Day, Marjorie Gould, Alicia Kelley, Alex Kelley, Sylvia Phillips, Aleesa Randall, Nora Young and Jordan Fancher.
For more information on the back-to-school fair, visit the Neighborhood Center, which is located on Highway 248 in Cassville, or call 847-2140.