It’s not a rhetorical question. I’m really trying to figure it out. How many books are enough?This summer, I thought 2,000 books would suffice. Yet here we are at 7,000+ books and I’m more frustrated than if we had NO books.For better or worse, something happened to me over the last couple of months: I started to think big. My, what a double-edged sword it’s been.Some numbers: There are about 6,000 kids in Athens’ public elementary schools. I have no way of knowing which kids are low-income and which are not. And I’m not sure it matters. The poverty rate is incredibly high here, but income is not the sole factor at play in whether or not a child has books at home. So Books for Keeps is targeting 6,000 kids. We don’t have any other way to ensure we reach every child.7,000 books for 6,000 kids… is that enough?Here’s the thing: I’ve mentioned Dr. Allington’s study many, many times. The results were amazing… simply giving books to kids to take home for summer made such a difference. BUT: those kids were given 12 books each. So if my math is correct, we need 72,000 books to make a difference in every child’s future.So I think the answer to my question is 72,000. Yes, 72,000 books will be enough.What will it take to collect & distribute 72,000 books? The truth is I’m stretched so thin I’m almost transparent. I don’t know how I can even start to tackle this new goal. It’s too much. But if that’s all it takes to make a difference in these specific [...]
Never, ever have I been so excited about something as simple as a set of bookshelves.Sorting screeched to a halt when I realized I was quickly running out of space in the storage room. There was a 25-foot set of cubbyholes preventing me from using one entire wall. Boxes were stacked 5 high on the other side and I didn’t feel comfortable stacking them any higher.Bayne hastily started the buy vs. build investigation, but the decision was made when Trey called to say that Niolon Lumber was donating the wood. The Niolons have been stepping in to save the day since the very first Books for Keeps distribution, back when we were still called “the Summer Satchel”. Talk about good friends!It was an interesting couple of days because I couldn’t do much to help. Marcus and Brett came by and moved all the existing boxes out of the way. Then Bayne and Trey came in and built the shelves (in about an hour!) Then Chad came by and moved all the boxes back in.Here’s the result:24 feet of shelving, a generous 24 inches deep. To me, it’s a beautiful sight! We have more lumber left over to build shelves on the other side of the room… just as soon as someone strong comes along to move 2 huge desks out of the way. In the meantime, Books for Keeps is now free to resume sorting & boxing books!Thank you Marcus, Brett, Trey, Bayne and Chad for taking our storage capabilities to the next level. And a special thank you to Niolon Lumber for donating – and custom cutting – the wood!
We’re slowly but surely digging ourselves out from under the wall of books donated in October. Counting is the next-to-last-step in the process, just before boxing & placing in storage, so it takes a while to get around to it.Right now, we have 6,997 books inspected, sorted by reading level, counted, and boxed for storage. In addition to that, we have sorted out about 2,000 “barter books”: these are adult books or kids books we can’t distribute, but will trade or sell some other way to get more kids’ books. I’m not done yet! There are about 1,000 books that were in such bad shape they can’t be used or sold. Books with mildew in the pages, ripped covers, missing pages, falling apart. So if you’re keeping count, we’ve processed about 10,000 books so far. AND…… I can easily say there are 3,000 (maybe even 4,000) more books that haven’t been touched yet. Fingers crossed that they’re usable kids’ books; if not, we’ll figure something out!No wonder my back is aching. Keep the books coming. We especially need “chapter books” for grades 2-5. Thousands of them. Spread the word.
Did I dream this? I’m pretty sure my good friend Celia called yesterday to tell me her company, IntelliGRACS Group, is funding Books for Keeps 501(c)(3) application.I’m hoping when you read this, you won’t burst into tears like I did. It costs a LOT of money to form a 501(c)(3). I’ve been agonizing for 2 months over what to do. Start fundraising? Get a job (a paying job, that is)?I spoke to a CPA yesterday for advice about how to account for all the book donations, and she said “Get your 501(c)(3) started… NOW.” 5 hours later, Celia calls.I shouldn’t be surprised; Celia has a heart the size of War & Peace, and at every stage in Books for Keeps’ short life, people have stepped in at the very moment I needed them most. I don’t know how to explain what it feels like to be so completely at the mercy of others, all the time. I hate it for the lack of control. I love it for the lessons it’s taught me; gratitude is a pretty cool feeling, too. So, Books for Keeps supporters – will you help me say “THANK YOU”??Post a comment here on the blog, on our Facebook page, or on the IntelliGRACS Facebook page. And take a minute to figure out if you might need IntelliGRACS Group’s services. They find holes in the safest of security systems/processes; better them than a hacker, right?The world is a lot different when you view it from Cloud 9. I’m staying here for a little while.
Ah, the sort room… what can I say? How about: you have to see it to believe it.When Whatever It Takes offered me a space to sort and store books, I said Y-E-S. I wanted those books out of my dining room. A little cleanup was required; here’s what we started with.The sort room, pre-cleanup…… and the storage room, pre-cleanup.Marcus, Kuk-Kyoung and Brett, great guys from the UGA Volunteer Management program, came by and helped me clean it out and set it up. We have desks all along the walls for sorting books, and bins down the middle of the room for each category of books.Shawn and her assistants came by for a quick review of all the middle/high school books. Aside from the prison-like decor, it looks pretty good, doesn’t it?While they sorted, I moved in boxes in preparation for our first volunteer sort day. I’d never tried to teach anyone my sort methods… these brave souls offered to be guinea pigs.We had a second volunteer sort day but sadly, no pictures. It’s too bad, because that’s when things started getting crazy. While we sorted, people kept stopping by with more and more boxes of books. By the end of the day we could barely squeeze out the door.And then I went to Atlanta to fetch books from Stephanie, Polly, and Celia……and then Bayne brought in books from Terrie & Ashley’s URS book drive…….and then Molly brought by a last batch of books from the Athens book drive……and Leigh brought by a last batch of books from Rachel’s CDC book drive……and then the mail came…… and Leigh brought more books, and Linh brought [...]
I’m hoping y’all are believers in the Better Late Than Never philosophy. Or maybe I should pretend I’m not late in posting party pics… I could call it October Flashback. Well, here goes.We started the book drive with a kickoff party at Hendershots Coffee Shop.Several people had the guts to perform dramatic readings from children’s books. Kids gathered on the floor in front while parents sipped coffee & cocktails .Nathan is an actor, so his reading was especially dramatic. Tony Castro provided sound effects.The night was one big blur and I really hope I remembered to thank everyone. Most especially I hope I thanked Shayne for organizing the whole thing, and Leigh for providing the munchies.Fast forward to the end of October. For the wrap party, we took over the porch at Locos on Harris Street. Why the porch? Check out the weather.I’m telling you, I was near tears and convinced not a single person would show. I was wrong, and I’m still so grateful to everyone who braved the storm to attend.One one side of the porch we had pumpkin painting, with Sydney supervising to ensure kids painted ONLY their pumpkins…… and cupcake decorating, with edible monster parts. No run-of-the-mill cupcakes for these folks; Cathy K made gourmet, from-scratch, spectacular cupcakes popular with kids AND adults. Thanks Cathy!Bayne collected and counted books as guests arrived…Hughes, one of Locos’ owners, told a story about a witch named GitchieGoomie (I think)…Families took advantage of the $.99 kids meal…… and Books for Keeps got 2 more carloads of books. Thank you Shayne, Leigh, Cathy and Locos, for helping me pull together a Boooooook Drive [...]
The latest book in the Wimpy Kid series was released on Nov 7th, and our first copy arrived today. Thank you Will in Statham GA! As promised, a bookplate with your name will be put inside the cover.It’s no secret we get excited about Wimpy Kid books. One of Books for Keeps goals is to reach reluctant readers. What better way than to provide copies of the #1 kid-requested book out there? So, Will – you get your name on a bookplate and the satisfaction of knowing that one child in Athens will be jumping for joy upon receiving this book. Thank you!
Yesterday I had the honor of meeting the South Jackson Elementary Garden Club. I’ve already posted a list of their favorite books, but now you can see the kids themselves. They’re a lively bunch with big plans for collecting books to share with others.Can’t wait to hear how many books they collect – good luck kids!
Right about now I’m wishing I had a marketing communications expert to find some really cool way to tell you about this, but alas, I do not. So here goes:Bring the most children’s books for grades K-12 to our sort room between now and Thursday, November 18th, and you’ll win a free cut and color with Shayne McBride at City Salon and Spa. Second prize: free haircut.The October book drive is over, Thanksgiving and the holiday season are approaching, and Books for Keeps still needs many, many more books. Shayne donated two gift certificates for us to use as motivation for all of you haven’t yet cleaned off your bookshelves. (Thank you Shayne!) She’s talented… and don’t you want to look good for the holidays?Collect from your friends… coworkers… neighbors… church… school… hold a Facebook drive… we don’t care where you get the books. Just bring them in!You’ve got ONE WEEK, let’s see what you can do. Deadline is 6pm Thursday Nov 18th. Leave your books (with your name & contact info on the bags/boxes) in the lobby of the Whatever It Takes office at 1000 Barber Street (that’s the old school across from the chicken plant.) I’ll contact the two winners on Friday Nov 19th.
I started working backwards and may never finish… but check out some of the wonderful things people have done for Books for Keeps.Worth a special mention: JoBeth in Athens who cleaned off her bookshelves at UGA’s College of Education and donated 600-700 books. A special thanks to Cathy K who made all the arrangements, picked up, and delivered the books. But you all know that I’m just as grateful for one book as I am for 700, right? Don’t forget it!I’m trying my best to say thank you to everyone… it just might take a while.