QUINCY -- Maxine Bassett sees the Back to School Help Fair as a blessing for parents and students to start off the school year.
This year's fair will take place from 8 to 11 a.m. Saturday at First Baptist Church, 738 N. Eighth.
"We're blessed to have the 22 churches that help every year in the community so that we can afford to do this," said Bassett, a long-time organizer of the fair launched in 1998. "It's not First Baptist. It's everybody -- churches, organizations, people and first of all, it's God that helps us."
The fair provides a one-stop shop for back-to-school needs with backpacks and school supplies, clothing, haircuts, immunizations, dental exams and physicals available along with breakfast.
All services are provided at no charge for students in pre-kindergarten through high school and into college.
"It is a community event. No one is exempt," said Judith Matthews, who helped get the fair started and has watched it continue to grow each year.
Children are bused to the Adams County Health Department for medical services, and while all children must be accompanied by an adult, only a parent can sign up a child for immunizations, dental exams and physicals.
New this year is a requirement for parents to bring medical/health insurance cards for their child or children to get immunizations.
Preparations for the fair usually begin in February, when organizers reach out to participating churches "to see if they can do it. I don't take everything for granted," Bassett said. By summer, churches are hard at work gathering school supplies and backpacks, and plans for the rest of the fair are in place.
Dozens of volunteers work behind the scenes and the day of the fair to make it a success. "It takes a lot of work," Bassett said. "I can't thank the community enough for what they do."
The fair provides a way for parents and children to have needs met to start the school year.
"To try to get two or three kids ready for school can be quite expensive," Matthews said. "It's also good for the kids' morale that they have what they need when they go to school. A lot of little kids on that first day are set up for failure or frustration."
Anyone attending the fair is encouraged to bring a canned good or nonperishable food item to be donated to food pantries.
Transportation to First Baptist for the fair also is available by calling the church at 217-223-4468.
Additional financial support for the event always is welcome. Checks may be sent to First Baptist Church, with "back to school" added to the memo line.