Returning to school for a new year brings the excitement of everything new that comes along with it.
New pencils, a fresh backpack, colors of crayons beyond the rainbow, and pens full of brand-new ink.
This exhilarating feeling does not universally translate, however, as Susie Baker recalls.
” I was that child that probably wasn’t prepared for school, and I was one of eleven kids and I just always felt like I was disappointing the teacher and I just didn’t want that to happen with these kids.”Susie Baker
22,000 backpacks, notebooks, pencils, paper, glue, and binders later – Susie has seen her vision for children come to life through her Marshall County Schools ‘Back-to-School Fun Fair’ that she has put on every summer for the last 22 years.
Each year, all students are welcome to attend the fair where brand-new school supplies and other resources from haircuts to medical exams are provided at no cost to the families in attendance.
“The first year my principal here at school said, ‘Susie, don’t be surprised if it doesn’t work. No one has done that. No one has done this before, so don’t be surprised if there’s not a whole lot of people.’ So, when I went to bed that night, I said ‘God, please let there be at least 300 people.’ Well, I foolishly prayed two more times. You know how God likes to multiply and we had 900 people that first year., so we were shocked.”Susie Baker
The Back-to-School Fun Fair has consistently seen over 1,300 families since it began, and no child gets left behind.
“If you come to the Fun Fair, you get everything. Even if we run out and we have to take names you are going to get everything that the first person in the door got. And it’s really hard for me to make our families understand that because some of them have been coming for the last few years, people have been coming the night before and camping out, which makes me very sad because they are going to get the same thing that the first person in the door gets.”Susie Baker
Susie’s main goal is to ensure that every student begins the first day of school on a level playing field.
This may begin with supplies, but it surely doesn’t end there.
She spends eight months leading up to the Fun Fair rounding up members of the community and agencies to provide resources for the families to use at home, and her selfless nature gives credit to those who help her along the way
“It’s very important that we reach out to these families and take care of them. Just be kind. I usually have about fifty people who help me and I always tell them – in the morning before we start, we always have a little prayer and always tell them, ‘Treat these people out there in that line like they are your mother, your brother, or your sister. Just be kind to them.’ You know, they’ve been standing out there for hours. Just be kind to them. That’s all it takes is just to be kind to them.”Susie Baker
She says that her years of getting kids the medical treatment they need, driving them herself on occasion to their doctor’s appointments, treating them for lice, providing haircuts and just being a support system for those in need comes full circle when she sees the results not only with her families but with the community as well.
“We were setting up down at the Moundsville penitentiary is where we usually always have it. We were setting up and they had some inmates there helping us unload the trucks and set up and I was standing there, and the one inmate came over to me and he was dressed in his department of corrections uniform and he said, ‘Is this your Fun Fair?’ And I said, ‘Yes, it is sir.’ And he said, ‘I just want to tell you I was one of ten kids and if we would have had something like this I probably wouldn’t be wearing this.”Susie Baker
Susie Baker’s humble nature and benevolent attitude have made her a beloved member of the community for years and because of that, her legacy will be taken on into the future
“It’s the house that built me, so it’s who I am. How I grew up is who I am, so I think I absolutely have a compassion for kids, kids in need, from where I came from.”Susie Baker