Back to School Fair gives volunteers 'a chance to be a blessing'

Tim Eckhardt passes backpacks to Vanessa Brent as the two handed supplies to a vehicle during the Back to School Help Fair at Iles Elementary School on Saturday, Aug. 8, 2020. The help fair is traditionally held at First Baptist church but due to the pandemic parents were able to receive backpacks and school supplies through a drive-thru this year.
H-W Photo/Jake Shane
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Aug. 9, 2020 12:01 am

QUINCY — Cinda Hummel has been volunteering at the Back to School Fair for nearly two decades.

She says she volunteers each year because she knows how much the event, which was first organized more than 23 years ago, means to the children in the community.

"As a teacher, I love to be able to see those kids walk into school on that first day with their new backpack filled with everything that they need for school, and it is not just the supplies that are in the bags but also the care of the entire community," said Hummel, a teacher at Quincy Area Vocational Technical Center.

"Those students feel prepared; they are ready to learn, and having these supplies and knowing that they are cared for by this community really gives them that boost of confidence to start this new adventure," Hummel said.

Maxine Bassett, who has helped organize the Back to School Fair for several years as a member of First Baptist Church, said she couldn't agree more with Hummel.

The Back to School Fair "is just a blessing. It is a blessing for the volunteers to be able to help these families, especially the children. It is a blessing to be able to help the parents, who right now may be out of work and struggling. It is just a blessing," Bassett said.

While the event is sponsored and largely organized by First Baptist Church, Bassett said credit for the event belongs to all of the 22 church congregations that participate by purchasing supplies, packing backpacks, donating money and praying for the event.

The backpacks are filled with the required supplies for each grade level, including pencils, notebooks, markers and other supplies.

Bassett said she is grateful for the ecumenical work of Quincy's churches, who also help provide volunteers to distribute the backpacks during the fair.

"Every year the volunteers come and get to work. You don't have to stand over and tell them what to do, because everyone works well together. Everyone does their part," Bassett said.

Supplies not distributed at Saturday's event will be passed on to other Quincy schools.

One of the volunteers on Saturday was Lena Jones, who said she still remembers the feeling she had the first time she volunteered at the fair.

"(The most fulfilling thing for me is) being able to provide our community's children with the school supplies that they need to be successful, but also realizing that the need is much larger than I even thought," Jones said.

Bassett and Jones said organizers never thought about canceling the event, which was moved from the church to Iles Elementary School in order to accommodate a drive-thru system due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"As the pastor said, 'Through this COVID-19 pandemic, the work of the church continues,' " Jones said.

Bassett said, "We have prayer before we start. We pray that this event is a blessing to us, a blessing to the students and their families, and we pray how great it is to be a blessing to someone else."