The Main Stream

Aug 5, 2013 2:14 AM by Sam Salzwedel

Tucsonans need back-to-school help

TUCSON - Thousands of people got ready for classes at a free back-to-school fair at the Tucson Convention Center Saturday.

Brandon Grosshans is unemployed, and his son, Damien, is starting kindergarten. When it comes to the job market, Grosshans is not hopeful.

"So hopeful that we're thinking about leaving the state, moving to Colorado," he said. "I have family up there."

His wife, Sabrina Smith, is glad her son got a free backpack and other preparations.

"It's kind of hard coming up with the money," Smith said, "especially all the stuff for school, backpacks being 20, 30 dollars. I just don't have that anymore."

Tucson Church International and GAP Ministries were the main organizers. Zach Yentzer, with TCI, hopes the event will have long term effects.

"I think a great indication of the health of a society is how we treat our children," Yentzer said, "and how we treat their education."

About 22.6% of Tucsonans live in poverty, according to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau statistics. The state average is 16.2% and Phoenix is at 20.3%.

The median household income is $37,488. The state average is $50,752 and Phoenix is $48,596, according the Census stats.

Yentzer hopes fewer people will need to attend events like his Back to School Bash in the future.

"Maybe 2, 3, 4, 5 years down the road," he said, "we've come together as a community to make sure that we don't see these kind of numbers again."

Sunnyside, Marana and Sahuarita schools start Monday. Tanque Verde starts Wednesday. Flowing Wells, Amphi, Catalina Foothills and Altar Valley start Thursday. Ajo starts August 12.

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