Preparations already under way for annual Back-to-School Help Fair

This file photo shows QHS basketball players Carmeron and Carson Gay demonstrating skills while volunteering to share time with kids waiting in long lines during the 2013 Help Fair at First Baptist Church in Quincy. (H-W File Photo/Steve Bohnstedt)
Posted: Jun. 20, 2014 10:07 am Updated: Jul. 4, 2014 11:15 am

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

The 16th annual Back-to-School Help Fair is still seven weeks away, but supporters already are taking steps to make sure the Aug. 9 event brings plenty of assistance to needy children.

The Rev. Orville Jones, pastor of First Baptist Church, said at least 20 local churches are preparing to get involved. Some church groups have already started gathering grade-appropriate school supplies to stuff in backpacks and distribute to children during the help fair, scheduled from 8 to 11 a.m. at First Baptist, 739 N. Eighth.

In addition, donations of cash and volunteer services already are pouring in. Organizers are getting ready to announce the location of a drop-off site for new and gently used clothing to be given away.

"I'm hoping within the next week or so to have that tied down so we can start allowing people to bring clothing to a particular location," Jones said.

People can call the church at 223-4468 to find out the drop-off location.

The help fair serves as a one-stop shop to help prepare children for the start of school. It features free haircuts, physicals, dental exams, clothing and needed supplies -- all provided by volunteers and contributors who realize many financially strapped families struggle to pay for all these things on their own.

Jones said 1,017 children were served last year by the help fair.

"The need has just grown exponentially by virtue of the economy," Jones said. "It shows the value of doing something like this."

In addition to the volunteers who provide items for the fair, others step forward to lend a hand on the day of the event. Volunteer physicians will give free school and sports physicals, local dentists will check teeth, and licensed professionals will give haircuts.

For the second straight year, all physicals and health-related exams will be carried out at the Adams County Health Department at Fourth and Vermont. Children will be taken to the Health Department by bus from the help fair site.

Jones said moving the exams to the Health Department last year turned out to be a good decision because the department has plenty of space and privacy. It's also the site of a dental clinic.

"It worked fantastically well," he said. "The place was just jammed with people, but they had such a smooth operation."

All children attending the fair must be accompanied by an adult. Only a parent or legal guardian can sign up for exams, checkups and other professional services for the kids.

Organizers encourage everyone attending to bring a can of food to support local food pantries.

"That is greatly appreciated, because we want to be able to share with others," Jones said.

Breakfast will be served to participants on the day of the fair.

Jones said a supplemental help fair will be conducted in January to buy underwear, socks, coats and other specially needed items for children at each school in Quincy. He said school nurses help identify children in need of items. He said cash donations are being accepted now for the January campaign.

Anyone willing to volunteer or give donations can call First Baptist Church at 223-4468.