BOONE — In the final days before the 2019 Back 2 School Festival, the Watauga County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted on Aug. 6 to allocate funding to this year’s event.
The Back 2 School Festival is taking place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Aug. 10 at Watauga High School. In its seventh year as an event and first year as its own nonprofit, Kendra Sink said the festival is for those who may be “struggling to meet the needs of back to school shopping.”
Sink serves as the festival’s director and president of the Back 2 School Festival board. The festival had previously operated under the Watauga Children’s Council or Quiet Givers.
Sink had originally spoken to the commissioners on July 23, stating the event still needed to raise about $10,000 to $15,000. At the Aug. 6 meeting, the festival still needed roughly $5,000 to meet the event’s $47,000 expense budget.
Commissioner Perry Yates raised concerns about whether the families who attended the festival were truly in need.
“If we can help these children that need (it), that’s great,” Yates said. “I just want to make sure the money goes to the people that need it and we’re not taken advantage of.”
Sink explained that families are asked to register with the school the student will be attending. While there is not monitoring at the door of the event to see if there is a true need per family, Sink said she checks in with school counselors after the event to see if the families who attended are in need of assistance.
“I’ve never had any school counselor tell me that more than two families that came surprised them,” Sink said.
According to festival organizers, school readiness shopping can cost more than $160 per child. Sink said she’s spoken with people who needed assistance, such as a university professor whose spouse was out of work and had urgent vehicle repairs, or a doctor who had attended the event for a neighbor’s child who couldn’t be there the day of the festival. She added that sometimes organizers just don’t know a family’s situation.
“This has been a real blessing to a lot of the families that don’t have $150 per kid,” said Chairman John Welch.
The need from families doesn’t end after the festival takes place. Sink said school social workers can be given access to a stock room of supplies throughout the year for families who need items after the festival. The Back 2 School Festival receives calls from the Hospitality House, the Children’s Council and OASIS for supplies for children they encounter.
“This is not a one-day thing, it’s a year-round thing,” Welch said.
The $5,000 allocated by the commissioners will come from the county’s administrative contingency fund. To donate to the Back 2 School Festival, visit www.back2schoolfestival.org/donate.