Cars lined up

Cars lined up for the back to school fair. Photo by Stan Schwartz

For the past 14 years, Pike County has been providing backpacks stuffed with school supplies to the county’s school children. Up until last year, the Back to School Fair, which is held on the Pike County Fairground, families were allowed into the main building to pick up their supplies.

Back then, in addition to supplies, students could receive free haircuts, as well as eye and hearing tests and even a dental check up or be tested for scoliosis. It was a festive atmosphere for all involved. There were also a number of vendors who set up in the building, offering additional supplies. But last year, after the pandemic forced the shutdown of schools and businesses, the coordinators of the Back to School Fair decided that providing the supplies was too important to stop, so they turned it into a drive-through event.

Last year, volunteers packed the backpacks ahead of time and tables were set up outside the fairground’s main building. Vehicles were allowed through the main gate, and as they passed the main building they were loaded up with school supplies and some toiletries. Hand sanitizer and facemasks were also being provided for the first time.

This year, Pike County Health Department Administrator Rhonda Stumbaugh said there were more than 20 volunteers on hand to help with the distribution process.

“We distributed 700 backpacks,” she said. And they were done with the fair by 10 a.m.

New in this year’s supplies were resource flyers from organizations in the county.

Stumbaugh said the fair committee usually meets in May to discuss the upcoming year’s fair.

“We would like to get back to in-person (fairs), she said, “but we would have to evaluate the situation at that time. The committee felt during the pandemic a drive through would be the safest option for our community.”

Most of the money used to buy the backpacks and supplies comes from local businesses, local churches and grants.

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