Meet new board member Keith Roberson

(part of a monthly series)

How did you first hear or learn about Books for Keeps?

I think I knew about Books for Keeps back in college, and I believe I volunteered the first time right when I was starting with Epting about 8 years ago. That’s when I found out about Books for Keeps and what the mission is. And I always enjoyed reading as a kid and had a sentimental connection to that message. And then when Leslie and I were in Lead Athens together, we got an Epting group together for a warehouse shift and helped out with some distributions. It was great to actually see how things work.

Why did you choose to serve on the Books for Keeps’ board?

It really goes back to what I was saying about that warm part of my heart when I think about reading and books and how much I learned and grooved from them in that impressionable part of my life. My brother and sister and I always did the summer reading challenges and loved it. My sister and I both loved things like Anne McCaffrey and would read those books. Reading so many different genres of books opened my mind and really made me want to learn. So when I was asked to join the board, I thought back to that and said “yes, absolutely.” I really want kids to feel those things that I felt.

Have you worked with other non-profits in the past? Which ones?

I’ve worked with several political groups and nonprofit orgs, multiple chambers of commerce, and some work with the Jackson County Family Connections through the Jackson Co Chamber of Commerce.

What strengths are you bringing to Books for Keeps?

Hopefully I can bring [...]

By |March 11th, 2021|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Meet new board member Keith Roberson|

Meet new board member Terris Thomas

(part of a monthly series)

How did you first hear or learn about Books for Keeps?

I learned of Books for Keeps back in 2010 when the Nonprofit launched and at the time was serving only Alps Road families. At the time I worked with FC-CIS in the same role I have now, but with the Whatever It Takes Initiative.

How long have you been volunteering or serving with Books for Keeps?

This is my first time working with Books for Keeps. But I’ve been encouraging families to engage since the program started.

Why did you choose to serve on the Books for Keeps’ board?

Actually, I love the mission of the organization and am personally a strong support of Literacy. I am incredibly happy to know that I am serving my community in an organization whose focus, vision, and mission is to provide children with literacy support and tools.

Have you worked with other non-profits in the past? Which ones?

I currently work with Family Connection – Communities In Schools of Athens, I have served as an Executive board member of Nancy Travis Project, Slater Foundation for Youth and Strong Base Inc.

What strengths are you bringing to Books for Keeps?

I think I am bringing my experience of working with families in our community. In that, I will be able to share firsthand their perspectives, suggestions, and concerns. But what I’m really excited to bring is my strength of joy. I work to be a person who brings joy with me into situations, and I’m excited to bring that joy to Books for Keeps.

What is your favorite memory from working with Books for Keeps?

My memories again are those from the start. I recall how the Neighborhood Leaders that I supervised back [...]

By |February 24th, 2021|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Meet new board member Terris Thomas|

Spring 2021 program update: we’re going back to the moon

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” ~Henry David Thoreau
It was 10.5 months ago that the Books for Keeps team started considering what felt like a truly crazy, moonshot style idea. We did it in response to a short-term crisis we knew could have profound long-term consequences.

In concrete terms, what it means is that we built a fully functioning e-Commerce website with our inventory of tens of thousands of books listed, for students to browse, so that we could deliver those free books directly to their homes while they were sheltering in place. (It still sounds crazy to type those words, all these months later.)

Between May and August, volunteers packed more than 53,000 books in our warehouse, a partner fulfilled another 15,000 books for outlying counties, and they were all delivered to students’ doorsteps using volunteer help and the magic of FedEx. We pivoted. We pivoted the heck out of it. And we delivered for more than 5,300 kids who we expected to see in their school media centers.

In late March of 2020, our organization felt certain that things would be weird for a while. And we knew we had to act to keep students’ minds engaged, to give them outlets to dream and explore, and to allow them to connect with reading as a joyful pursuit. We also knew we might have to move heaven and earth for our moonshot idea. And then, we knew this thing we worked to build so hard might become defunct again in a matter of months when things returned to normal.

Call this the year of continually adjusted expectations. Our [...]

By |February 4th, 2021|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Spring 2021 program update: we’re going back to the moon|

Meet new board member Tiara Smith

(part of a monthly series)

How did you first hear or learn about Books for Keeps?

I don’t remember the year, but I first learned of Books for Keeps through the MLK Day of Service in Athens.

How long have you been volunteering or serving with Books for Keeps?

I have been consistently volunteering with Books for Keeps for five years.

Why did you choose to serve on the Books for Keeps’ board?

I believe in the mission of Books for Keeps – to help curb the summer slide in reading.

Have you had an inspiring/memorable interaction with a student since working with Books for Keeps?

I think my most memorable interaction was with a group of girls (I believe they were in second grade) at Barnett Shoals Elementary School in 2018. Even though in multiple classes, several of them asked for the same book and I just thought “oh, this must be a popular book.” It turns out that these young girls were forming a summer book club!! I thought that was one of the most awesome things ever☺

Have you worked with other non-profits in the past? Which ones?

I currently work for Brightpaths (formerly Prevent Child Abuse Athens) which is a non-profit.

What strengths are you bringing to Books for Keeps?

Many years of experience working with families in multiple ways.

Do you have a keen childhood memory related to a particular book? Or an experience with reading – to yourself or to a loved one?

My favorite childhood memory as it relates to reading is participating in the summer reading programs at the library. I loved seeing my name move across the wall as the number of books/hours I read increased. I actually don’t remember if we got prizes at the end of the [...]

By |January 19th, 2021|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Meet new board member Tiara Smith|

BFK’s Favorite Reads of 2020

Leslie’s Favorite Books of 2020

I’ve clung to a mantra this year that defines my professional life and a slice of my personal life: books provide the hope and the escape we all need, and they can become our saving grace. eel cringe-y. tunity to escape, to become absorbed in a narrative, and sometimes to lose myself in someone else’s sorrows – because some of my favorite books this year really were steeped in loss and longing and strife. (The Nightingale gave me the best, most cleansing cry I’ve had in a long time.) It was also a year for me to pick up some books I’ve long wanted to read with my 6-year-old daughter, to have moments to escape together, but also to feel her body curled against mine, rapt in a narrative I read as a child (Summer of the Monkeys) or I read for the first time as she grew inside me (as with the first two Harry Potter books). It was a year to revisit a long-held favorite (Their Eyes Were Watching God) and to understand the author’s own story better (Wrapped in Rainbows, a gift from my husband on my birthday). This was also a year to, when necessary, recognize my own inability to commit to long narratives, allowing myself to pick up collections of short stories and graphic novels far more often than I have in the past. Some of those graphic novels got me through truly difficult times – including the beginning of our collective lockdown in March, and the five days I spent quarantined from my family in my bedroom during one COVID scare in our household. A lot of things saved me this year – I can’t place the credit [...]

By |January 5th, 2021|Uncategorized|Comments Off on BFK’s Favorite Reads of 2020|

Sponsor spotlight: Georgia Power

Georgia Power is one of those singular sponsors that has been there for Books for Keeps since the very beginning – and has not missed a single year of support. They are truly among a special and dear circle of donors.

Their first donation was logged with Books for Keeps in 2011, the year of our founding.

At a time when we were still proving ourselves to many in the community, just trying to get noticed as a tiny volunteer-run organization, Georgia Power heard Melaney’s passion and vision and they got behind it.

What is particularly meaningful is that Georgia Power committed to increase its financial support in this year of unprecedented challenges – sponsoring two grade-levels at Gaines Elementary School in Athens.

This is far and away the largest gift of support by Georgia Power to our program, and it speaks to a singular commitment they have to children and education.

Beyond that, they’re committed to so many causes and ways of lifting up the Athens community and surrounding region – from working with our local United Way to participating in days of service to make improvements at other community gems like Bear Hollow Zoo, pictured here.

External Affairs Manager Christy Terrell leads the charge for Georgia Power, but she also volunteers her time on numerous local boards and initiatives, providing the strategic leadership so many of us nonprofits rely on.

With this gift from Georgia Power, we’ll be able to bring books to 160

students at Gaines Elementary School – providing them with 12 books each – sending more than 1,900 books going into the homes of these children for a summer full of learning, adventure, and exploration.

Like us, Georgia Power believes that the key to growing the vibrance and [...]

By |December 17th, 2020|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Sponsor spotlight: Georgia Power|

Sponsor spotlight: Synovus Bank and Trust

There are supporters that are important for one particular reason – and then there are supporters whose involvement in an organization runs deep and wide, and seems to touch on nearly every aspect of what is dear to Books for Keeps.

Synovus is one of those above-and-beyond sponsors.

We’re highlighting Synovus here on our blog because of their commitment to sponsor a grade-level of students (that’s 80 children – more than 900 books!) at one of our Athens service schools.

That commitment can’t be emphasized enough. They’re returning to do this for the second year in a row, investing in local students’ futures at a time when so much feels uncertain about next month or even next week.

We have a long-standing relationship with Synovus. They have been our primary bank since Books for Keeps incorporated in 2011 and started raising money to fund its work. We have hosted employees from Synovus on our board and as volunteers in schools. We have benefited from book drives in Synovus branches around Athens. And we’ve attended – and hosted – many meetings in their main branch in downtown Athens.

Synovus has carefully woven itself – and its employees – in the fabric of Athens, particularly in service of Athens nonprofit community. (Don’t believe us – check out these awesome snapshots of some of their recent service activities!)

This commitment of $2,500 – when it joins other fundraising efforts like grants and individual donations – helps us plan confidently for spring of 2021. It helps us know we can keep our promise to the students and families we served this year. It helps us confidently forecast for full service provision to our partner schools.

So much feels up in the air. It’s hard to [...]

By |November 11th, 2020|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Sponsor spotlight: Synovus Bank and Trust|

Old, new, tried-or-true: we’ve got lots of ways to support BFK this year!

It would be the understatement of the century to say we’ve had an unusual year- all of us.

BFK is no different. It means we’re all hankering for stability and the “normal” rituals. And yet, this year calls for getting creative, trying new things, and providing options for connection.

So, this year as we approach year-end, we’ve got multiple ways to support Books for Keeps. We’re keeping some of the old – including a matching challenge on Giving Tuesday (December 1st) – and adding some new opportunities to get cool swag for yourself or holiday gifts for whoever you’re thankful for this year. Here of some terrific ways to support, all in one place:

Giving Tuesday, December 1st – A global day of giving, and a major fundraising day for Books for Keeps! This day serves as the official kick-off of our year-end fundraising campaign, and you know we love to provide some extra incentive to be extra-generous. On that day, the Books for Keeps board members will match all donations until we reach $10,000 on that day. (That’s our board members from past, present, and even a few of our incoming members who will officially join us in January.) Mark your calendars, bookmark our donation page, and help us have our most successful Giving Tuesday ever!
Lock in your holiday hunker-down activity or surprise a music-lover in your life with one of these REM jigsaw puzzles, featuring the band’s 1990 poster for the American Library Association (ALA). Proceeds from all puzzle sales go straight back to the ALA and to your favorite acronym: BFK! The puzzles are made right here in Athens by local Very Good Puzzle Company, and will arrive in time for Christmas!

By |October 28th, 2020|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Old, new, tried-or-true: we’ve got lots of ways to support BFK this year!|

63,000 books delivered to students’ homes (and growing!)

Updated July 24, 2020

Books are a torch during times of darkness and human searching.

(Sure, go ahead and call us biased.)

In March of this year, as the skies over our world seemed to turn black, and we all wondered what would happen next – Books for Keeps looked at the 80,000 books in our warehouse as a beacon of hope.

We couldn’t wait for next school year when it would (might?) be safe to give them away through our traditional, school-based program. This impatience, this insistence that our mission is more critical now than ever, is what is behind our still-in-process response to the pandemic: delivering more than 62,000 books directly to students’ homes.

When schools suspended in-person instruction in March we knew we had to act – and quickly – to use those books as a source of hope. In fact, we looked at the books in our warehouse as a very real lifeline that could tether children to their educational futures, to their love of reading, and even to their sense of self.

(As of right now, children in Georgia and elsewhere have been out of school for more than four months – with at least one more to go, and longer delays to return in some counties.)

And so, in March, we embarked on a plan to distribute books to children in the schools we serve using an online ordering process, with fulfillment happening with the help of volunteers in our warehouse and for-profit partners. It felt just crazy enough to work.

And as of late July we’ve hand-delivered some 43,000 books to children – plus worked with a for-profit partner to deliver another 17,000 books via FedEx. And we’re still going, delivering the final orders packed in our warehouse, and [...]

By |July 9th, 2020|Uncategorized|Comments Off on 63,000 books delivered to students’ homes (and growing!)|

A dispatch from the BFK warehouse amid our COVID-19 response

“We might just pull this thing off.”

It’s a regular phrase uttered during staff meetings and as we sign off from phone calls with each other, in all sorts of seasons. Books for Keeps has always been a scrappy organization – occasionally punching above our weight class, and ALWAYS looking for new ways to problem-solve in the face of hurdles.

Lately, we find ourselves saying this a lot (sometimes just to the dog or the cat in our home office) as we turn our operation on its head so we can reach students in the most unusual of circumstances. What was once a program that deployed thousands of books and hundreds of volunteers into schools is set to enter students’ homes through their computers or a parent’s smartphone, or even in direct phone calls from a teacher to a parent saying, “I’m calling to help you order your Books for Keeps books.”

In the past seven weeks, Books for Keeps has placed nearly our entire inventory of 80,000+ books onto an e-commerce website for students in Clarke County to shop. Meanwhile, we have partnered with a book wholesale company out of South Carolina, Reading Warehouse, to create an online shopping experience for students we serve in Elbert, Warren, and Fulton counties.

Eight weeks ago, we wondered how on earth we would be able to serve the 9,000 students who expected us in their schools this spring. Seven weeks ago, we hatched a plan – the brain-child of Program Manager Justin Bray – that felt just crazy enough to work. (Justin is the dreamer on our staff, and we’re continually aware of how fortunate we are to have a mix of conceptual minds and analytical thinkers on both our staff [...]

By |May 6th, 2020|Uncategorized|Comments Off on A dispatch from the BFK warehouse amid our COVID-19 response|