Audrey Love

As we usher in the end of summer, so we also welcome that freshly sharpened pencil smell and the joy of loading down backpacks with new school supplies. La Grande School District helped families in the local community do just that through its annual resource fair, held Thursday at La Grande Middle School.

From 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., new and returning students and families were welcome to explore a number of vendor booths, grab snacks prepared by the school’s new food service program, help themselves to school supplies provided by the La Grande School District and browse a selection of free clothing from the Salvation Army. New students
entering kindergarten through eighth grade were also able to register for the upcoming school year.

Now in its fourth year, the resource fair is sponsored by the La Grande School District as a way to help students and families in the community get information on everything from Girl Scouts and Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to dental care and physicals through Grande Ronde Hospital.

The event was inspired by a similar resource fair put on by the Baker School District. Originally conducted as mini-events at individual schools in the La Grande district, it was combined into a “one stop shop” in order to reach more people and provide more vendors at a central place and time.

Scott Carpenter, director of educational programs and fair organizer, said they prepared for a couple hundred students and their families to utilize this year’s fair.

“It’s a way for us to network community resources to support families for the start of the new year. We just want to make sure kids are ready to go,” Carpenter said. “We have such a generous community (and) most of the time people are calling me saying, ‘Hey, can I be part of the resource fair.’”

Kelly Balnicky, Youth in Transition liaison for the La Grande School District and fellow fair organizer, mirrors Carpenter’s sentiment.

“We do it so that we can help the students and the families in our community,” Balnicky said, pointing out that “kids get tons of free (supplies) that they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.”

See more in Friday's edition of The Observer.