I wanted you to hear it from me first:  at long last, Books for Keeps has taken the leap and committed to a full-time executive director! Leslie Hale, our new executive director, is living proof that everyone at Books for Keeps is serious about providing more books to more children… and soon. And she is READY!

Where will I be? Right here, of course. You can reach me at melaney@booksforkeeps.org.

My first big project, now that Leslie’s on board? Finding a warehouse (and the funds to pay for it) so that we can collect, inspect, and sort more books, with more volunteers, more of the time. Who wants to help?  (Seriously… help?!!)

We also have a new email address: it’s now info@booksforkeeps.org. 

What else has changed? Nothing – unless you count the exponential increase in our potential to end summer slide in Athens.

Here are a few details.  Welcome to Books for Keeps, Leslie!

— Melaney

Melaney Smith, Books for Keeps, Inc.
(404) 808-8625


ATHENS, GA. – June 4, 2013 – Transitioning from a volunteer-run organization to a fully professionalized nonprofit, Athens-based Books for Keeps has hired its first full-time executive director.
Leslie Hale, a May 2013 recipient of a master’s degree from The University of Georgia, officially took the reins on Monday as the nonprofit’s first full-time director. The move comes two years after Books for Keeps’ incorporation as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, and four years after founder Melaney Smith distributed books for the first time to a few classrooms at Alps Road Elementary School in Athens.
Books for Keeps started because I saw a need in Athens that I couldn’t ignore – and after being sustained through the hard work of volunteers and the support of the local community, we are thrilled to be in a position to take Books for Keeps to the next level,” Smith said. “Ensuring that children in Athens and beyond have the ability to read and learn – especially during the summer months – is a big task, and had grown bigger than could be overseen by an all-volunteer organization.”
Smith has been serving as acting executive director while working full-time in another field. She will remain with Books for Keeps as a board member and active volunteer.
The nonprofit gave roughly 24,000 books to 2,000 children in five Athens-Clarke County schools last month during its annual distribution. Each May, the organization distributes books to students in Athens-Clarke County schools with the highest percentages of children receiving free and reduced-price lunches.
Books for Keeps is examining its ability and capacity to expand to new schools, both inside and outside of Athens. Hale will lead that work, as well as efforts to expand community awareness, fundraising and partnerships with Georgia-based businesses.
Leslie comes to us with a background in media relations and public policy, as well as event planning and fundraising through her work in graduate school,” said Vicky Wilkins, board president. “She has the combination of skills, energy and experience Books for Keeps needs in an executive director to shepherd this organization from infancy to adolescence, ultimately helping us reach more children.”
Hale received a Master of Public Administration degree in May from The University of Georgia School of Public and International Affairs. While in graduate school, she assisted public policy efforts at the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities, a federally-funded agency committed to systems change, advocacy and capacity building for people with disabilities in Georgia. Prior to that, she worked with Watkinsville-based Extra Special People, coordinating the nonprofit’s public relations efforts during the launch of a $5.3 million capital campaign.
Working with high-need, under-served populations is something that led me toward a graduate degree in public administration,” Hale said. “I am thrilled with the opportunity to lead an organization that has been doing spectacular things thanks to a handful of dedicated volunteers. I look forward to shaping the future of Books for Keeps – all in the name of a better future for children in Georgia.
Before returning to school, Hale spent four years as a newspaper reporter in Naples, Fla., where she spent time covering state and local government, K-12 education, and higher education. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2007.
To schedule an interview with Leslie Hale, contact her directly at leslie.hale@booksforkeeps.orgor (828) 713-2132.
About Books for Keeps: Books for Keeps started as one woman’s effort to help a child who loved to read but had no books at home. It grew into a grassroots movement to end summer slide in Athens, Ga., by ensuring children have access to books when school lets out. The nonprofit was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization in 2011.
Books for Keeps distributes books to students ranging from pre-K through 12th grade. The elementary school program is based on a University of Florida study that found giving economically-disadvantaged elementary school children each 12 high-interest books at the beginning of summer had an impact on reading achievement statistically similar to attending summer school.