Thanks to Monday’s Bright Futures Back-to-School Fair, hundreds of Harrisonville School District students will have a brighter beginning to the new school year.
Since 2014, the school district has hosted this event to provide students in need with items essential for starting the school year. During the fair, students from preschool through high school receive new backpacks, school supplies, shoes, clothing, hygiene kits and haircuts.
Karen Ferling, an elementary teacher with more than three decades of experience, has seen firsthand the significance of these supplies and the positive start they provide for children on many levels.
“Thanks to this fair, kids come into school with the same things as the other students,” Ferling said. “No one asks them, ‘Where is your pencil?’ and ‘Where is this or that?’ This makes all of the difference.”
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Kara Costner, the fair’s backpack coordinator, agreed.
“It’s great to start children on the same footing,” she said. “When I started volunteering here, I didn’t initially recognize the needs of this community. It’s opened my eyes, and the eyes of many of us here, about the number of people who struggle to make ends meet and are in situations beyond their control.”
Since the back-to-school fair was launched, Costner, Ferling and Christie Mangan, volunteer coordinator for the event, have noticed an increase in the need for support and assistance.
“Over the past few years, there’s been a shift in the economic demographics,” Mangan said. “I’ve also noticed a larger number of grandparents raising their grandchildren. This fair is important.”
Mangan noted that the event’s success can be credited to a collaboration between its many volunteers and members of the community who donate items and contribute their time.
Starting two months ahead of the fair, event coordinators place blue barrels in libraries, banks, churches and other locations to collect backpacks and school supplies. In addition, many business and individuals provide monetary donations.
New shoes for students are also donated. This year, for the first time, the district partnered with Samaritan's Feet and Walmart Distribution Center for footwear donations. Local hairstylists volunteer their services, and families can visit the district’s new Station 42 to pick out clothing for their children.
Costner agreed with Mangan that the community’s support is key to the fair’s success.
“We pull from many different groups for this fair,” Costner said. “I have one piece and someone else takes care of another piece. We all share the load. By parceling it out, no one is overwhelmed or stressed. It’s pretty seamless.
“We’re here to help. The whole community steps in, and we’re more like a family taking care of each other.”