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Back to School Fair gives local parents a helping hand

Megann Horstead, Reporter – news@thetimesweekly.com | 8/3/2018, 10:13 a.m.
Hoping to make back to school a little easier for parents and their children, Catholic Charities—Diocese of Joliet hosted its ...

Hoping to make back to school a little easier for parents and their children, Catholic Charities—Diocese of Joliet hosted its 26th annual Back to School Fair.

The Aug. 2 fair served as a one-stop event to fulfill student needs at no cost.

“We hope just to help give the school kids a good start to the school year,” said Marianne Melcher, event coordinator for Catholic Charities—Diocese of Joliet.

At the event, people gained access to various services and information.

Parents were required to provide identification for all household members, proof of income and verification of address.

The event aims to help those in need.

“They start lining up really early,” Melcher said, noting that people started dropping in as early as 8 a.m.

Those at the event took a health needs assessment to identify what they’re in need of. From school and sports physicals to screenings for vision, dental, asthma and lead, a plethora of services were provided.

“We work with Lewis University nursing students,” Melcher said. “They all come in. It’s a great opportunity for them to get hands-on training.”

Among those at the event was Mayte Mascote of Capri Beauty College cutting the hair of her first client of the day.

“I can use my talent for free and help families,” she said.

This year was Mascote’s first time working the event. She acknowledged the struggles that parents may face in preparing their children to go back to school and said she has children of her own.

“School supplies are like a fortune,” Mascote said. “Why not help out the families and get the kids a free haircut and maybe some supplies, as well.”

The back to school fair featured a community resource expo. Among local organizations represented were the Disability Resource Center, Aunt Martha’s Youth Services and Warren-Sharpe Community Center.

Over the years, the number of attendees at the event has grown.

Melcher said at Joliet Catholic Academy, they only expect attendance numbers to continue to grow.

“This is only our second year in this location,” she said.

Catholic Charities—Diocese of Joliet gave away 2,000 backpacks last year during the event.

“This year, we’re prepared for 2,300 because last year we gave out 300 more than the year prior,” Melcher said.

Sabina Zavala, of Joliet, said she comes out to the event year after year and acknowledged that preparing her children to go back to school is challenging.

Zavala sat watching on as her children received haircuts. She said they cannot wait to go back to school.

“They really love it,” she said. “My biggest one is going to start high school this year. He’s really excited.”