Annual Fair promotes Back to School readiness

Everardo Valadez stands with his daughter and son at the Back to School Fair at Bishop Plaza. (The Gate/Gloria Talamantes)

Everardo Valadez stands with his daughter and son at the Back to School Fair at Bishop Plaza. (The Gate/Gloria Talamantes)

With 29 resource tables and fresh market goods, the 2017 Back of the Yards (BOTY) Back to School Fair was the place to be for residents and families in the neighborhood.

The annual back to school fair was held on Saturday, Sept. 2 and gave away more than 800 bookbags filled with school supplies.

Every year families spend their money on supplies, clothes, and electronics to prepare their children for the new school year. According to a national survey by Deloitte, the average spending on school supplies per household in the Midwest is $443.

In a city as big as Chicago with a population as large as 2.7 million, organizations have held school fairs, book bag giveaways and other drives to help alleviate the amount of expenses for families in communities throughout the city.

For more than 15 years in the Back of the Yards neighborhood, Special Services Area (SSA) 10, managed by Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council (BYNC) has focused on creating school supply drives, giveaways, and fairs. The BYNC aims to create a safe space and reduce some of the expenses for families who can use the extra help.

For families like Everardo Valadez’s, the help comes at a time of need. “Right now we are working less hours, [so] this is a ton of great help because we are limited with our expenses at this moment,” said Valadez.

Valadez has two children-one who is starting the third grade and one who will be starting first grade. “I believe that events like this are fun for my children and a good opportunity for them to get a healthy distraction right before starting school. More than anything, they like the animals–that is what attracted them to the fair the most,” Valadez explained.

For other families, events like the Back of the Yards Back to School Fair provide a place to get away and provide opportunities that they would otherwise not be able to have.

Marisol Esparza, who has two boys, thinks the event is important to the neighborhood. “Well, to me this event is important and even though my kids are hesitant to get close to the animals, I think it is interesting to see them getting exposed to different experiences since I cannot take them anywhere to do this for them,” said Esparza.

This year’s fair was organized by BYNC and Matanky Realty Group in partnership with the Back of the Yards SSA #10, Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS), Ald. Willie B. Cochran (20th), Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th), and Plant Chicago.