It takes a village; Back-to-School Resource Fair supplies students

Brooke Curley Photo/Gila Valley Central: Organizing in the chaos of students and parents, volunteers with Saint Vincent De Paul scramble to keep up with the demand.

By Brooke Curley

THATCHER- It’s not often a community gathers so willingly to help each other, but that’s what happens every year at the Back-to-School Resource Fair.

For its fifth year, the Back-to-School Resource Fair worked with various groups and businesses within the Gila Valley to help local school-age children get ready for their semester of classes. Saturday, the Eastern Arizona College Activities Center was filled with parents, students, and a large variety of local businesses and providers.

Roughly 350 people attended the event. Multiple aspects of local back-to-school necessities were addressed, such as clothing and health. Multiple businesses handed out school supplies, and St. Vincent De Paul and the Graham County Rehabilitation Center Thrift Store were on hand to organize a clothing exchange. The event was orchestrated by the Graham County Substance Abuse Coalition (GCSAC).

GCSAC Director Kathy Grimes told Gila Valley Central that she was happy with the large turnout of individuals from within the community who came to participate and share.

“We had a great turnout,” Grimes said. “There were lots of wonderful vendors with very valuable resources to help us get our students ready for school this year. We even have new restaurants that have come and contributed school resources and are volunteering for us. El Coronado is doing that for us. It looks like we could set a record. That’s pretty cool. I’m glad that the word is getting out and people see us as a valuable resource and they’re willing to stand in the heat to get resources for their kids. Thank you, Graham County.”

Sponsored by The Graham County United Way, GCAC works with multiple agencies and businesses within the Gila Valley to collect school supplies and distribute it to those in need. Backpacks were given away to the first students, and free eye screenings were performed by the Safford Lions Club. Sports physicals were also available for $20 each, and free vaccinations were available as long as the parents brought their children’s vaccine records.