MOUNDSVILLE — People started lining up hours in advance of Marshall County Schools’ annual Back-to-School Fun Fair, where volunteers work to distribute school supplies to any who need them.
The 21st iteration of the fair saw people lining up as early as 7:30, well ahead of the 9 a.m. start time, according to organizer Susie Baker. Backpacks were prepared with writing instruments, notebooks, hygiene products, and food and handed out to families as they drove their way through. The event was open to any Marshall County student. By the end of the day, 1,922 students made their way through the event.
More than 50 volunteers, wearing distinctive green shirts decorated with bees, met with families working through a line of vehicles which stretched the perimeter of the Marshall County Fairgrounds. At the end of the line was a line of affiliated organizations while volunteers took requests for what sort of backpack students wanted.
“I think there’s a huge need, especially with people out of work due to COVID,” Baker said. “A lot of people have lost their jobs in fast food, and a lot of restaurants and businesses have closed down, so I think it’s extra important this year. The need’s there, and there’s so much more need than greed.”
Baker said the shirts were in honor of her late husband, Mike Baker, who passed away after having been a constant companion through the first 19 years of the event. In his memory, Baker said, the shirts urge everyone to “bee” kind.
“The theme was for him — be kind like Mike. He was the kindest person in the world. That’s why we have this theme this year,” she said.
One volunteer, Trudy Barrett, has come back all 21 years to assist with the fair.
“The smile on their face, that’s been my pay for 20 years,” she said. “I love them.”
This is the second year that the event has been held in a drive-thru format, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In normal years, free haircuts, health screenings, and more are also part of the fair, provided by WVU Medicine Reynolds Memorial Hospital.
Baker said the process of buying the supplies was a tedious one. While an order was placed with Walmart to purchase the supplies, the order was not filled, and volunteers instead had to fill nearly 40 shopping carts with merchandise off the shelves at the stores in Moundsville and at the Highlands.
“I ordered from Walmart, an order which was well over $5,000, and nothing came in. Myself, my three sons, my three daughters-in-law, and my six grandkids, we all took the buggies, and we ended up having 37 buggies full of stuff,” Baker said. “We (spent) $4,800 that day. It took us five hours to check out because they wouldn’t use their quantity key.
A&B Kia in Benwood donated $15,000 to the project earlier this year. Baker said donations were also provided by Knights of Columbus, Marshall County Schools, and the Marshall County Credit Union.
Among the organizations who set up shop to contribute at the end of the line were Marshall County Health Department and Emergency Management Agency, the Church of God, the Marshall County Family Resource Network and Northwood.