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Downers Grove Back to School Fair offers free supplies

DOWNERS GROVE – Buying supplies is at the heart of the back-to-school season.

Children and their parents descend on retail stores with supply lists in hand to buy pens, pencils, folders, notebooks and a plethora of other materials required for the start of a new school year.

But for many families, footing the bill for school supplies can place a significant strain on the budget.

That’s where the First Christian Church of Downers Grove comes in.

The church, 801 63rd St., will host its eighth annual Back to School Fair from noon to 3 p.m. Aug. 12.

More than 400 backpacks full of school supplies were blessed during Sunday services and will be distributed at the fair.

There are 320 backpacks designed for elementary school students and 100 full of supplies needed by high-schoolers, said Carol Clifford, church secretary. The church will distribute smaller bags for preschoolers.

“They are filled,” Clifford said. “I mean they are full of supplies. Whatever you can imagine is in there.”

The backpacks include ear buds, and high school students will receive a compass and a flash drive.

The church relied on supply lists provided by local schools when buying materials, Clifford said.

The supplies and monetary donations were mostly provided by members of the church.

“It was the people in the church pulling together,” Clifford said. “But we do get [donations] from outside sources.”

Walgreens, for example, donates the backpacks given to elementary school students, she said.

The Back to School Fair has grown “by word of mouth over the years,” Clifford said. The church promotes the event on social media and distributes fliers throughout the area.

In previous years, a line for school supplies formed before the event started, she said. More than 600 people have attended the fair in previous years.

Distributing backpacks and supplies is only part of the fair.

“The whole grounds of the church is filled with activities,” Clifford said.

Free food and beverages are available along with games, music, raffles, face painting and a bouncy house.

“There’s free ice cream,” Clifford said. “It’s free. Everything is free.”

A snake and reptile show will be featured at this year’s event, and a Downers Grove Fire Department truck is expected to stop by, Clifford said.

Haircuts, demonstrations on appropriate dental care, and fingerprinting also will be available.

“There are times when this is something people need and the fair helps,” said Clifford, who added the event is open to everyone.

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