MARION, IL– The countdown to the school year has begun.
With just weeks to go until the first day of school, Franklin-Williamson County Positive Youth Development has partnered with local organizations for the Southern Illinois Back-to-School Expo.
Families were able to prepare for the upcoming school year free of charge.
Laura Duckworth and her two children, Callie and Cooper, couldn’t wait this summer for the Southern Illinois back-to-school season in Marion, especially after attending there last year.
“We of course arrived at 9:00 a.m. I knew it was going to be busy,” Duckworth says.
It’s the last hurray before the start of the school year.
Carrie Eldridge, co-chair of Franklin-Williamson County Positive Youth Development, says she wants the event to be a way for families to spend time together — before heading back to class.
“Families can go through difficult times. So we want to make it a family event, just fun. And we want families to have fun today. Just have fun,” Eldridge says.
She also hopes to make the transition into the school year a little smoother.
That’s why the expo is a one-stop-shop for all their back-to-school needs.
“Free school supplies, free haircuts, and generally getting them ready for the school year,” Eldridge says.
She says being able to prepare the children for a successful school year means a lot to her and her team.
“It really hurts my heart because I love helping young people, I love seeing the smiling faces of our families and it’s just amazing to see all the help,” says Eldridge.
And there is free food.
The Salvation Army sponsored a mobile food bank that fills trunks with groceries.
Inflation hits families hard.
Duckworth says this event with free essentials limits the impact of inflation on their family.
“School supplies can be very expensive and so every dollar helps. I really appreciate all the people from the local community who came out and spent their own funds to help the kids,” Duckworth said.
She’s grateful to have school supplies ticked off her shopping list without spending a penny.
The goal this year was to help 2,000 people at this year’s exhibition.
Eldridge says that number increased dramatically as the day progressed.
She thinks that at 11:00 a.m. they had already reached their goal.