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Recession boosts numbers at EMAA Back To School Fair

FARMINGTON — A record number of school children took advantage of getting free school supplies at the 9th Annual Back to School Fair Friday. The event was sponsored by East Missouri Action Agency (EMAA) and was held at the Farmington Civic Center.

The event provided basic school supplies and essential screenings for eligible school-age children in St. Francois County. Families had to register in advance to participate.

“We signed up 580 kids between kindergarten and 12th grade,” said Rob Baker, EMAA Community Service Representative. “They are from all over St. Francois County. The whole idea behind this fair is so that low income school kids have the opportunity to go back to school with the same essential school supplies as everyone else.”

Baker said this year’s fair was the largest one ever. He attributed that to the downturn in the economy.

“At our outreach office we are seeing many families who have never used EMAA come to us for help,” he said.

Bill Bunch, the executive director of EMAA, said he expected a heavy turnout this year considering the number of people who are without jobs and the overall economy.

“It gets more expensive to outfit kids for school each year,” he said. “I think we had about 300 kids at our fair last year. This year we have about double that. This event is not just about East Missouri Action Agency. We have many volunteers here from the community and various other organizations. We couldn’t do this without them.”

Bunch said without the fair a lot of children would got back to school empty handed.

“In addition to the school supplies we are also offering some very valuable services,” Bunch said.

Children who signed up for the fair were required to go to 12 different stations that were set up.

“One station was a head lice check, another was a hearing check, there was one for an oral examination,” Baker said. “We had someone checking vision. All children are required to have a finger print kit done. In addition to the school supplies the kids receive a $10 gift certificate to Payless for a new pair of shoes and a certificate for a free haircut at the National Academy of Beauty Arts.”

Chris Cline is a reporter for the Daily Journal. Contact him at 573-431-2010, ext. 114 or at

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