Students in grades kindergarten through twelfth grade from all over Moniteau County gathered at California High School to receive free school supplies and health screenings at the Third Annual Moniteau County Back to School Fair held Saturday, July 28.
"Three years ago the Community Action Agency put a group together and saw there was a need for children and parents to have help with going back to school," John Agliata, communication manager for Co-Mo Electric and a member of the Back to School Fair organization committee, said. "School supplies are expensive and the health fair screenings give the ability to have all these free checks done in one place instead of having to go to the dentist or the eye doctor. We have set a goal of having children go back to school without having any undiagnosed health issues and with the supplies needed to learn. Over the past three years it has grown and is filling a pretty big need in the community."
Ellen Ash, Jamestown C-I School Elementary principal said the fair is open to all children no matter what their background and is just a great resource for getting the supplies needed for school. Agliata said the first year they held the fair at the elementary school but soon found out there was such a turnout the need arose for a larger venue such as the high school.
"Every year it has grown a little bit," Agliata said. "We have such a great group of volunteers and a great organizing committee which helps get the word out and bring the students in giving them a good experience here."
Ash said health deficiencies affect learning, as does not having the right supplies so the fair is an incredible opportunity for students. Those who were able to really experience the full benefit of the giveaway were the over 240 students who pre-registered for the event. By pre-registering, those in charge of purchasing the supplies were able to buy based on the school supply lists for each student's school and grade. Those who did not pre-register may or may not have been able to get all of the supplies on their list.
"I have seen schools experiment in the past with supply giveaways," Ash said, "but in this case the lists are printed out from the school by grade so the backpacks are filled with everything the student needs for their class. And the health screenings were great too with state of the art equipment. This just makes it more easier for the parent not having to worry about having to go to the store and buy the supplies on the list."
Agliata said pre-registration is vital to them because it helps them know how many students are coming from each school and grade. Seeing so many different community organizations and businesses come together to support the fair is something which is incredible to Agliata.
"You look around and see so many different groups represented here," he said, "both in the booths and by the volunteers who have turned out to help. We have every school represented in some way whether by principal, teacher or PTO member. We have several community health organizations represented. It is just one of those things where Moniteau County comes together to help children.
"I just want to say the donations have been amazing and I appreciate all who have supported the fair," Ash said. "Not just with the school supplies and different health screenings but just with snacks and fun games for the students."
Agliata said all the money raised for the fair is going straight back into the students. Next year they are looking at making the fair a 501(C)(3) status so they can seek different fundraising opportunities to raise more money to purchase more supplies for more children. He said for more information about the fair next year, call him at Co-Mo Electric at 800-781-0157 or the Moniteau County Health Center at 573-796-3412. Agliata added they are always looking for more volunteers to help out and accepting donations.
In the spring Agliata said they will be doing a publicity campaign to get the word out while also handing out flyers to area children to give to their parents with forms to register for next year's fair. There will also be registration forms at the schools, Moniteau County Health Center and at www.co-mo.coop/.
"This event is completely community supported," Agliata said. "And the area has been great about supporting the fair. There are so many different organizations who are just giving for these children and putting a lot of smiles on these children's faces and that makes you feel good. It just shows what a community can do when it comes together."
For more great stories check out the Aug. 1 issue of the California Democrat.