Smiling faces beamed the morning of Aug. 4 – smiling faces of both students and volunteers taking part in the annual Back-to-School Fair held at Sturgeon Bay High School and sponsored by Altrusa International of Door County.
The event is a well-oiled machine that runs efficiently due to the Altrusa volunteers and their friends who make it happen. The Altrusans want to ensure that every child going to school has all the necessary supplies for success, providing students of all ages with grade-appropriate school supplies, backpacks, school spirit shirts, personal health care items, underwear and brand-new age-appropriate books.
“It’s always a good thing,” said ninth grader Avery, who has been coming to the Back-to-School Fair for several years. “They have a lot of different options for backpacks. It’s really great because it helps me and my family with financial issues. It’s great to get school supplies and new backpack.”
She was also happy with the book she chose.
“I found a really good book,” She said. “It comes from my favorite movie. It’s called The Kissing Booth.”
The first Back-to-School Fair was held in 1998 through the efforts of the Department of Social Services, The Salvation Army and the Safe & Stable Families Coalition. Fifty children were served that first year.
The consortium then approached Altrusa and asked if the organization would take the fair on as a project, which the group agreed to do. The Altrusans set a goal of 100 children to be served with the second fair, but they actually had 125 children. That grew to 150 the next few years, and then the numbers continued growing to more than 600 children.
Children and families are referred to the fair by the public schools. Each spring, Altrusans on the Back-to-School Fair Committee work with the schools to identify families in need and obtain appropriate information for each child, such as school, grade, age and clothing size.
On the day of the fair, children arrive with parents or guardians and are then taken by volunteer guides to gather the school supplies. The biggest smiles from the children seem to come when they are searching among the large selection of backpacks.
The average cost of the supplies is $130 per child. The Altrusa budget is near $100,000 for this annual event. Financial support comes from many individuals, service organizations, foundations, grants, businesses and churches, and fundraising is a year-round affair. There is always a need for financial support to continue the program, and everyone is invited to assist.
Tax deductible donations can be sent to Altrusa Foundation, attention Back -to-School Fair, PO Box 523, Sturgeon Bay, Wis., 54235.