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The C.A.R.E. Fair provides limited-income families with academic supplies and other necessities as the start of the school year approaches. This annual free fair has been held since 1989. The nonprofit Volunteer Center of Southern Arizona (924 N. Alvernon Way) is one of the fair's longtime partners, recruiting and coordinating the event's volunteers. Ellen Hargis is the center's president and CEO. The center is currently celebrating its 40-year anniversary in Tucson. This year's C.A.R.E. Fair is at Pueblo High School (3500 S. 12th Ave.) on Friday, July 29, from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, July 30, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. It is open to everybody, both to receive services and to volunteer. If you would like to volunteer, visit www.volunteersoaz.org for a list of opportunities, drop by the center or call 881-3300.

What does C.A.R.E. stand for?

Children's Assistance and Resource Event.

Who is eligible to go?

Anybody in the community is welcome to attend. It continues to be a community collaboration--a group of organizations that came together to provide a "one-stop shop" for families to have their kids ready to go back to school, so any families are welcome to attend the event. There's a specific focus, really, on people who don't have the resources to pay for some of these services themselves, but anybody can go to the event.

What's at this fair?

(It) includes a huge number of services for families. It started with things like immunizations and well-kids checks for school, but it's expanded well beyond that now. ... There's a safety corner where they have car seats and bicycle safety, and they provide bicycle helmets and infant seats and give information on how to use them correctly.

Roughly how many people attend the fair?

Last year, (the fair) served 11,000 to 12,000 people. It can seem like a madhouse at times, but it's actually very well organized. Our role at the volunteer center is to recruit and engage volunteers, and we anticipate we will have 400 to 450 volunteers.

Is anyone eligible to volunteer?

Absolutely. We can find something for everybody. They can do setup or work the two days of the event.

What is the deadline for becoming a volunteer?

It would be ideal for us to know how many people we have ahead of time and have everyone signed up by Wednesday (yesterday), but we have had people show up the day of the event who said, "I'm here to help," and we'll put them to work.

How can someone become a volunteer?

There are a couple of opportunities to learn about what they can do. If they have access to (the Internet), they can directly access our database by going to our Web site, and they can sign up for the C.A.R.E. Fair and they can see all the opportunities. ... What you see on the Web site is what we need people to sign up for. And if they don't want to go to our Web site or if they don't have access to the Internet, they can always call us or come here to sign up, or as I said, they can just show up at the event.

Is this the biggest event that the volunteer center is involved in?

We manage a variety of events in this way, but this is probably the largest ... event where we are the most directly involved in management.

For the C.A.R.E. Fair, are there any collaborating partners?

The (Pima County) Health Department Information Services; the (Arizona) Department of Transportation helps with the safety corner; (Tucson Medical Center) helps with the safety corner--there are a lot of other organizations that get involved as well.

Roughly how many positions or opportunities does the Volunteer Center have open on a regular basis?

Oh, we have hundreds or thousands of ways that people can get involved.

Where do the supplies for the C.A.R.E. Fair come from?

In a lot of cases, the supplies are provided by whatever nonprofit that is providing the service. For example, the Food Bank would provide its own food. The Health Department would provide the health supplies it uses--that sort of thing. ... It's a really interesting event because of that collaborative piece of it. I think it's a really interesting thing about Tucson about how collaborative nonprofits tend to be, and how willing to work together (they are), and that's one of the reasons the C.A.R.E. Fair works in this community.

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