WARSAW — While children begin to reluctantly take off their swimming suits to don book bags in preparation for the first day of school, a local charitable organization is mobilizing to take a huge bite out of the “back to school” costs for local needy families.
In its 23rd year, Tools For School drew huge crowds to the Kosciusko County Fairgrounds Wednesday, Aug. 1, as needy families were helped with school supplies as well as some of the intangibles that help students get adjusted to another nine months in the classroom. The event lasts until 4 p.m.
“Free haircuts, you can’t beat that,” said Stephen Possell, executive director for Combined Community Services, the organization responsible for the event. “The free haircut is a huge thing for me. I just ran into a kid who didn’t have any shoes, so we’re going to work on getting him some shoes as well.”
According to volunteer coordinator Ami Pitt, students and their families stand in line but are entertained and kept busy for the time it takes to run the gauntlet of CCS services. Pitt said the line, staffed by scores of volunteers, issue students school supplies pertinent to their grade level.
“As they go down the line, they’re going to tell the volunteers what grade they’re in,” she said. Each student’s allotment is customized. “It needs to go by grade for what they need and some kids don’t need a backpack,” she said.
This year, CCS announced that board member Steve Foster found a discounted supply of book bags to provide to those students in need.
Aside from pencils, erasers and notebooks, the event also features vendors who provide eye exams, dental exams and fun activities such as face painting and other games.
“Even though there’s a lot of employment in the county, there’s still a need,” said Possell. According to Possell, the Tools For School program helped 1,160 students in 2017. As far as the students being freshly groomed for the first day of school,
“They get between 300 and 400 haircuts done today,” said Pitt. The event is open to public, private and home-schooled students.
Pitt said CCS also provides a service in a few months to help with needy families who are financially challenged during the holidays. “Toy time is a 10-day process [in December],” Pitt said. “It’s like recycling toys, with a twist.” The program, according to Pitt, provides toys for about 1,700 children during the Christmas holiday.