Backpack giveaway

Rhonda Stumbaugh and Kim Lumley check in people who arrived for the Pike County Back to School Fair. This year, because of COVID-19, the fair was turned into a drive through only event. Photo by Stan Schwartz

Book bag handoff included face masks

BOWLING GREEN—Cars and trucks were lined up across the Pike County Fairgrounds parking lot Saturday morning for the revamped drive-through Back to School Fair.

In past years, the main fairground building was filled with sponsors giving away school supplies, hair stylists providing free haircuts and personnel offering hearing and vision screening. As with almost everything this year, the coronavirus forced a change in how the Back to School Fair would take place. Other events, including the book bag giveaway took place across the fairgrounds. Children were given tours of local fire trucks and life flight helicopters.

Out of an abundance of caution, the Pike County Health Department Home Health and Hospice, decided to make the fair a drive-through only event on the fairgrounds to minimized the risk of spreading COVID-19.

Rhonda Stumbaugh, PCHD administrator, said upwards of 700 backpacks were prepared ahead of time and then lined up by age group and either boy or girl. She led the vehicles, which had started lining up long before the event began, to the check-in area. They started the give away about 11 years ago to help get Pike County students prepared—supply wise—for the coming school year.

As each car pulled up, the people were asked what school system they were picking up for, how many children and if the student was a boy or a girl. That way, when the vehicles pulled up to the book bag hand off point and handed over their check-in sheet, the volunteers could quickly hand over the backpacks. 

Each backpack was stuffed with school supplies and toiletries. The fair ran from 8 to 10 a.m. They started a little early and ran until the more than 700 book bags were all distributed.

That is why they had a people check in first. Stumbaugh said it is good to know who was attending the fair and how many from each school district in the county. It would better help them gage what they might need for next year’s fair.

“We have 13 schools that participate on a regular basis,” she said. “Private and public schools.”

Kim was helping Rhonda at the check-in station.

Normally, they send out donation letters to offset the cost for the backpacks and all the supplies, Stumbaugh said. This year, however, because of the pandemic, they did not do that. In year’s past, they had vendors handing out additional supplies onsite. Churches, businesses and organizations have donated in the past. They carry a balance forward to the following year, and she hope they have enough for next year, as well.

She noted that this year, they had difficulty getting tissues for the backpacks. When the pandemic first hit, people rushed to the stores to stock up on paper products, emptying the shelves of toilet paper, paper towels, and tissues, as well as hand sanitizer and antiseptic wipes. Canned goods were in short supply, as well.

“I think we’ll just donate some to the schools when we can get them,” she said.

This year, Stumbaugh added, they were coming up short on hand sanitizer, too, but at the last minute were able to get enough for all the backpacks. Each vehicle received a package of face masks.

Because everyone had to stay in their vehicles for the drive through this year, the requirement to have the children attend the fair was lifted.

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