Jackie Sasser enjoys seeing the smiles on children’s faces as they leave the Southeast Denton Back 2 School Fair with a new backpack filled with school supplies.
“What we try to do is give these kids a head start,” said Sasser, who has coordinated the event for the past 10 years. The fair, sponsored by the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center Advisory Board, helps students whose families are considered low-income, she said. The fair served about 1,200 students this year.
During the Saturday morning fair at the recreation center, there were bounce houses set up and Smile Magic handed out snow cones.
Essilor Vision Foundation came out to offer eye exams and fit children for glasses, which they could pick up right there at the mobile site. The Denton Police Department donated 10 bikes for children.
It’s very much a community affair, Sasser said.
Meanwhile, at First United Methodist Church, Interfaith Ministries of Denton was giving away backpacks along with two outfits for each child, a $25 gift card to buy shoes and age-appropriate school supplies.
The organization’s Apple Tree Project provides the donated items for low-income families in the Denton school district.
The organization began giving out school supplies in 1996, serving about 70 children. In 2001, the project started providing clothing.
This year’s project served about 1,400 children, said Condell Garden, executive director of Interfaith.
Backpacks took up the middle of the church’s gym. A table filled with books for different grade levels was set up as students and their parents came through.
A lot of kids don’t have books in their homes, Garden said.
“It’s a chance to get them interested in reading,” she said.
Students are eligible to apply for the Apple Tree Project if they qualify for the free- or reduced-lunch program.
“We try to grow it every year because the need is so great,” Garden said.
As part of Saturday’s event, other organizations and businesses came in to offer school physicals and haircuts.
Sandra Keas of Salon Eden has been cutting children’s hair at the event for three years.
She likes to send them away with nice haircuts so they feel confident when school starts.
“It’s fun watching the kids,” she said.
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