MVCAA thinking ahead to Back to School Fair

Wednesday, June 1, 2005

With the end of one school year hardly past, Missouri Valley Community Action Agency is already preparing for August and its next Back to School Fair in Marshall.

Aug. 11 will be the day of the annual event, which helps low-income families in Saline County get much-needed school supplies before the start of the fall semester.

Now preparing for its seventh year, the program has grown steadily. Last year well over 300 students participated, visiting information booths with topics ranging from reading to Medicaid and picking up a bag of supplies custom packed for each grade level.

Roughly 20 local organizations participated as well, filling the Indian Foothills Park shelter house for the event.

"The cost of school supplies and other needs related to children starting school has skyrocketed in recent years," said Keith Ward, client services coordinator for MVCAA. "Adding to this year's problem is the fact that our community has been greatly affected by a sluggish job market, leaving some parents without the income available to purchase basic school supplies for their children."

Ward spearheads the project with the aid of Virginia Hemeyer, also of MVCAA.

In illustrating the need for the program, Ward referred to Kids Count data, an annual report by the not-for-profit organization Citizens for Missouri's Children.

In the most recent report, Saline County's ranking against other Missouri counties dropped somewhat to 76th out of 114. Previously the county was ranked 74th.

"Some areas in which our children fell in ranking are directly related to education," Ward said. "Research has proven time and time again that a child that is prepared for school will perform better."

The program is funded solely through donations from local businesses and private donations. To get every item on every student expected to participate would require roughly $12,000, Ward said. "But we never ever raise that kind of money."

He said he's looking into the possibility of finding some grant funding to help as the program continues to draw more and more students, but that would not likely assist with this year's project. "I'm always looking ahead," Ward said.

Those interested in assisting the program through a donation of time or money can contact Ward by phone at (660) 831-5141 or e-mail at Donations may also be mailed to MVCAA, Back to School Fair, 1415 S. Odell, Marshall, MO, 65340.

"Remember, 'A man never stands so high as when he stoops to help a child,'" Ward said, reciting one of his favorite lines. "That quote came from somewhere in my childhood and it stuck with me."

Contact Matt Heger at

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