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Fort Macleod Kids First continues Back to School Connect tradition

Summer holidays end with a celebration in Fort Macleod.
The fourth annual Back to School Connect will put hundreds of parents and children in touch with free school supplies as well as community resources.
“It builds community,” Trish Hoskin of Fort Macleod Kids First Family Centre said. “It’s good for us to come together and do good things together.”
Back to School Connect is from 4-7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 24 at the Fort Macleod and District Sports Centre.
Held at the community hall in each of its first three years, Back to School Connect outgrew the space so a new venue was found for 2016.
Close to 600 people attended Back to School Connect in 2015.
Back to School Connect gives people a welcome boost as families prepare to send their children back to the classroom.
A key element of Back to School Connect is the free clothing and footwear exchange.
Fort Macleod residents have donated a large amount of gently-used clothing of all sizes for both children and adults.
“We’ll gladly keep taking donations,” Hoskin said.
There is still a need for donations of winter boots, coats and gloves for children aged 12 years and under.
Clothing donations can be dropped off at the Fort Macleod Family and Community Support Services office on Second Avenue or at Cafe Orange on Main Street.
Another important element of Back to School Connect is the chance for people to pick up free school supplies.
Kids First makes available paper, binders, erasers, pens, pencils, pencil cases, scissors, felt pens, pencil crayons and other items.
Hoskin has seen firsthand just how much the free supplies mean to families.
“They were crying,” Hoskin said. “They were so grateful.”
Families are also treated to free “back to school” haircuts, provided by hairdressers in Fort Macleod who volunteer their time.
Professionals in the community also volunteer their services at Back to School Connect.
Parents can get their children free eye exams and dental check-ups at Back to School Connect.
A variety of agencies such as Alberta Health Services, Mental Health, Fort Macleod Affordable Housing Coalition, Parents As Teachers, Fort Macleod Preschool, Fort Macleod Food Matters, Cottonwood Organic Food Co-op, Alberta Supports, Service Canada, Project Read, Welcome to Parenthood and Fort Macleod Early Childhood Coalition have attended in the past with displays and handouts.
“A lot of what we want to do is connect people with the community,” Hoskin said.
Livingstone Range School Division transportation co-ordinator Phil McGale will attend to discuss busing to the modernized W.A. Day and F.P. Walshe schools.
Community groups such as the 2309 Fort Macleod Army Cadets and the Sparks and Brownies will attend to take registration and promote their programs.
Back to School Connect has had the support from community volunteers, but more are always welcome.
“I’m sure we could find jobs for people,” Hoskin said.
To volunteer or for more information about Back to School Connect, phone Kids First at 403-553-5354.