With sunlight filtering through trees and the calendar signaling the end of another summer, hundreds of eager families filled Allendale Township Park last week Wednesday to take advantage of the community-wide Back to School Fair.
Organized by Tammy Walker of the ABC Coalition, an Allendale non-profit, this year’s fair brought together local businesses, church and para-church organizations, the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department, and both Allendale Public and Allendale Christian Schools. Groups like New York Life offered free child ID’s and the Sheriff’s Department gave horseback rides; several other businesses followed suit with their own freebies and giveaways.
“This event shows what our community is all about. Each year it’s such an amazing evening — we’re lucky to have this kind of event!” said Tammy Walker.
Dr. Daniel Jonker, Superintendent of Allendale Public Schools, agrees:
“An event like this demonstrates the strength of our community partnerships and reminds us all of the people who come around students and offer to help each year.”
Run entirely on donations (each business pays $25 to host a table), the Back to School Fair gave a free Scholastic book and ice cream treat to each student. Additionally, it gave teachers the opportunity to connect with kids and families before school began, while welcoming those new to the area.
Allendale Middle School PTO volunteers Carlene Coone, Melissa DeHoop, and Karin Morgan used the evening to introduce themselves to incoming 6th grade parents, asking them to sign up and get involved in the school. Melissa, for instance, had two children in the middle school last year and shared that families who met them first at the park were much more eager to follow-up at the school.
“Teachers are working so hard that serving in the PTO, helping with funding and helping to plan activities is one way for parents to support the teachers,” said Carlene.
Kids explored the fire trucks, police cars and ambulance on hand while the new police sergeant and his deputy used the interaction time to talk about safety and rip tides in Lake Michigan. The excitement of the kids was palpable and parents were thankful for the opportunity to get some questions answered at the transportation table.
“I’m excited to see my friends again! ” said Grace Hilton, a 3rd grader, who attended with her grandpa.
We send our thanks to everyone who made this year’s Back to School Fair a fun, successful event! Strong communities build strong schools, and we are blessed to have both.