Books for Keeps blog

Grade-level Sponsor Spotlight: Elks Lodge #790

This is the first in a series of blog posts that will profile the sponsors that adopt a classroom, a grade level, or an entire school through charitable giving. We couldn’t do what we do without the folks and businesses in the community that step up to ensure that an entire group of children has access to high-quality books all summer long.

The Athens Elks Lodge #790 made the increased commitment to become a grade-level sponsor in 2014 after sponsoring a class in 2013 – but this civic group and nonprofit is so much more than a monetary sponsor to Books for Keeps.

Members from the Elks have donated books for our annual BFK Book Sale, our biggest fundraiser of the year (including a whole trailer-load of books just in time for this year’s sale!) They have loaned tables to Books for Keeps for the annual sale, and returned to shop the sale, as well. And they have brought their support full-circle by volunteering at book distributions – most recently at Fowler Drive Elementary School in May of this year.

This full complement of support to Books for Keeps – as book donor, as monetary supporter, as volunteer force – is a rare and beautiful thing, and it speaks volumes to the Elks’ commitment to the community where they live. It’s also an active testament to their motto, Elks Care, Elks Share.

Books for Keeps thanks the Athens Elk Lodge for caring about our mission and the kids we serve – and sharing so selflessly with our organization.

By |August 18th, 2014|Sponsor Spotlight|Comments Off on Grade-level Sponsor Spotlight: Elks Lodge #790|

The Inaugural Books for Keeps Yard Sale!

Get ready clean out your garage or storage closet because the inaugural Books for Keeps Yard Sale is just around the corner! You can get rid of unwanted items, make a profit, and support Books for Keeps all at the same time!

On October 25, 2014, Books for Keeps is inviting you to participate in this unique first-time fundraiser. We are hoping you will host a yard sale and donate a percentage of the profits to support summer reading by students from low-income families. The best thing about it is that it’s not limited to folks in Athens, Atlanta or even Georgia- you can host a yard sale anywhere!

Here is how it works in three easy steps:

First, let everyone know about your yard sale.  It can be as simple as spreading the word about your yard sale with signs, emails, text messages and flyers to your family, co-workers and neighbors. Sign up to host your yard sale benefit and we’ll provide you with flyers, signs and email language to help you promote your yard sale.

Ready to sign up already? Email Kim Klonowski to get on our list early!

Second, SELL! Deliver a solid sales pitch and remind customers that you are doing good deed by donating a percentage of your proceeds to Books for Keeps.

Finally, divvy up the profits. You will keep a majority of your yard sale income, and we will ask that you donate a small percentage of the profits to Books for Keeps.

You can either donate the amount on our website or mail a check to Books for Keeps, P.O. Box 49761, Athens, GA  30604.

Although October 25 may seem far from now, it is never too early to begin planning and spreading the word via email to your neighborhood [...]

By |June 23rd, 2014|Uncategorized|Comments Off on The Inaugural Books for Keeps Yard Sale!|

Newly updated book wish list!

Thanks to our wonderful volunteers during book distributions this past April and May, we have a newly updated book wish list for our elementary students! Please visit our wish list page for the complete list of book titles covering elementary through high school.

After compiling results of exit surveys from each of the 10 elementary schools we serve, we found the following books to be the most requested for next year.  As you can imagine with 3,700 students, the number of requests was large! This information could not have been compiled without a large number of volunteers assisting at distributions and recording each student’s comments.

Graphic novels such as Amulet and BONE are increasingly popular and the latest edition to the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series is always a favorite among our students.

New to our wish list this year is Dora the Explorer, Spongebob Squarepants, Scooby Doo, Pokémon, the Pete the Cat series and the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series by Rick Riordan. At book distributions, there were plenty of students asking for those books and the available copies always left the book tables – quickly. However, Minecraft, Hello Kitty, 39 Clues, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Shake It Up are the most surprising additions to our wish list. We plan to have more of those books for next year’s distribution!

We are always looking for gently used or new copies of the books on our wish list. If you do not have any of these books, you can make a monetary donation to help us buy books – we are able to get great discounts through publishers, nonprofits, and other clearinghouses.

And remember – we will take donated books of all kinds! Any book that is not [...]

By |June 3rd, 2014|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Newly updated book wish list!|

What a wild and wonderful spring!

It’s hard to believe this post is coming less than one month after book distributions began.

It seems like we blinked and they were over – that magical period of two-and-a-half weeks in which we gave away 45,000 books to 3,700 students at 10 elementary schools.

It was, by turns, exhilarating and exhausting, joyful and humbling. It was a reminder of how crazy we are for doing what we do in a matter of just a few weeks — and it was a reminder that it is one of the most worthwhile and rewarding endeavors of which many of our volunteers, board members, and (tiny) staff have ever been a part.

We nearly doubled our program reach this year – to 3,700 students from 2,000 the year prior. We added five new schools: Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary, Winterville Elementary and Downtown Academy in Athens; Paul E. Dunbar Elementary in Atlanta; and M.E. Freeman Elementary in Warrenton.

These additional schools were a huge stretch for us — in terms of fundraising, in terms of logistics (just getting the books to the out-of-town schools was a major challenge), and in terms of staffing. But it was really remarkable to serve new schools for the first time in three years.

In many of our existing schools, the students are totally familiar with Books for Keeps. It’s a good thing. They start asking in August when Books for Keeps is coming back (and we love hearing that from media specialists). But, it also means that there’s no sense of delighted surprise when we tell them they will take home 12 books — by this point, many of the older students can recite exactly how a distribution works. And children can be spectacularly blunt: “We still only [...]

By |May 22nd, 2014|Uncategorized|Comments Off on What a wild and wonderful spring!|

Distribution time is here at last!

For 50 weeks, we’ve collected, inspected, sorted and boxed books. Now comes the fun part – we’ll spend two-and-a-half weeks this spring giving them all away!

Join us as we help children select and count their books and record their feedback on our book selection. The one word that seems to best describe the experience:  JOY.

No special skills are required; training is provided in the first 10 minutes of each shift – so the most important requirement is to show up on time! Sign up for a shift at

If you are part of a group that would like to adopt an entire shift, please email Leslie Hale to sign them up:
Monday, April 28 – 8:05-11:05 a.m. and 11:55-2:30 p.m. (all shifts full)

Tuesday, April 29 – 7:45 a.m.-12 p.m. and 12:10-2:30 p.m. (p.m. shift full)

Wednesday, April 30 – 7:45 a.m.-12:05 p.m. and 12:30-2:30 p.m. (p.m. shift full)

Thursday, May 1 – 7:45-11:25 a.m. and 11:40 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (p.m. shift full)
Friday, May 2 – 8:05-10:15 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.-1 p.m. (p.m. shift full)

Monday, May 5 – 7:45-11:05 a.m. and 12-2:15 p.m.
Tuesday, May 6 – 7:45-11:30 a.m.

Wednesday, May 7 – 7:45-11:15 a.m. and 11:50 a.m.-2 p.m. (p.m. shift full)
Thursday, May 8 – 7:45-10:50 a.m. and 10:50 a.m.-2:10 p.m.

Friday, May 9 – 8:25-11:45 a.m. and 11:50 to 3:10 p.m.

Monday, May 12 – 12:45-1:50 p.m.

Tuesday, May 13 – 7:45-11:05 a.m. and 11:05 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

Wednesday, May 14 – 7:45-11:30 a.m. and 11:35 a.m.-2:50 p.m. (p.m. shift full)

By |April 14th, 2014|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Distribution time is here at last!|

Book Drive Month is back, baby!

We’re going at a terrific pace in the BFK warehouse, getting thousands of books ready to distribute to the children we serve. To date, volunteers have helped box 35,000 books for May distributions – and we have about 18,000 to go. Wow!

With all of that activity, you’d think we wouldn’t be bringing additional books into the warehouse right now. Think again! As soon as distributions are over, we must start preparing for next year!

That means fund-raising, buying new books, and finding donated books.

That’s why our March Book Drive Month is so important! Bringing in new donated books helps us accomplish all three goals. Book Drive Month is under way, but it’s not too late to host your own book drive – so read on!

First, and most obviously, Book Drive Month brings donated books to our program. Used books will find a new home and a new life in the hands of children who might not otherwise own a single book. And the donated books that do not go to our program – because they are adult titles or because they are too old or worn – will go to our book sale.

The BFK Book Sale, held in August, is our biggest annual fundraiser. It raised $20,000 in 2013, money that supports our efforts to buy books for children in Athens and beyond.

Hosting a book drive allows participants to gather new books from our wish list, as well as the donation of used books for both our program and our book sale. It’s a great way to encourage friends and co-workers to clean out home libraries in the name of fostering literacy in their own community.
How it works
It can be as simple as [...]

By |March 3rd, 2014|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Book Drive Month is back, baby!|

Where Did January Go? (or) A whole bunch of updates from Books for Keeps

But seriously, where did that month go?
It seems like it was just last week that we were celebrating the triumph of meeting our year-end fundraising goal, and also learning that we would need to find new warehouse space in the first quarter of this year.

OK, so maybe we’ve been a little busy. Our last post was January 13, about our need for new warehouse space. We have a lot of really great friends and supporters working to help us resolve this need – unfortunately, we have little else to update. We are continuing to talk to anyone who will listen to our needs, especially those folks who might know someone (who knows someone who knows someone).

If you missed it, here’s our press release about the issue, and a fantastic article the Athens Banner-Herald ran informing the community about our situation.

We continue to be grateful to Fire and Flavor for the two-and-a-half years they have given us of rent-free storage and operations space for our books. They are also doing what they can to help us find a new home, and we will forever be appreciative of their generosity.

Are you Smarter than an Athens Grade-Schooler?
Well, are you?

It’s a question we’re excited to ask for the first time, as we launch this inaugural event on March 22. It will be held at the Holiday Inn Athens, and will feature teams of adults competing against teams of students from the schools we serve.

We’re recruiting teams now, working directly with the schools and reaching out to members of the business community to see who feels secure enough that they’ve retained that all-important grade-school knowledge. Check out our event page on our website and on Facebook. Ticket [...]

By |February 3rd, 2014|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Where Did January Go? (or) A whole bunch of updates from Books for Keeps|

SOS: Books for Keeps in need of new warehouse space

We need help, and in a big way.

Books for Keeps is facing a crisis of the sort it hasn’t experienced in nearly three years (way back when the roof collapsed in our old storage facility).

This spring, we will be losing our warehouse space, and must find a new home for our books and operations.

Fire & Flavor has graciously given us two-and-a-half years of free warehouse space and labor, and we cannot adequately express our gratitude to the owners and employees there for allowing us to grow in a safe, supportive environment. But, as with most businesses, they grow and circumstances change. Due to this, BFK will no longer have access to free space for our books.

Our first priority is to ensure we can serve the 3,700 children we’re committed to serve in 2014, uninterrupted. We have a deadline of March 31 to get our books moved into a new space.

What this means is finding a new space as soon as possible – preferably free. A successful end-of-year fundraising campaign brought enough money into BFK to buy the books needed to serve the students in our program this year. However, we were not anticipating the need to pay for warehouse space in 2014, and therefore do not have funds on hand – or budgeted for – that expense.

Do you know someone? Or perhaps know someone who knows someone?

Please email Leslie, at, if you have any thoughts, suggestions, or leads.

We have to solve this. Losing our warehouse space before May distributions would cripple our ability to serve the children in our program – children who already have too many factors working against them in their lives. We’re determined not to let that happen, but we [...]

By |January 13th, 2014|Uncategorized|Comments Off on SOS: Books for Keeps in need of new warehouse space|

A big goal reached, and a big “thank you”

To our amazing community of supporters:

In November, we faced a daunting task – finding sponsors for nearly 1,200 children who still weren’t covered in our 2014 program. We had the books on hand – or the funds needed – to serve the rest of the 3,700 children we’re committed to reach in 2014.

Still, 1,200 children was a lot. We were talking about $30,000, or the funds needed to buy some 15,000 books.

And we needed that on hand by December 31 in order to have the time  to box books for distribution to the schools in May – a lengthy process.

Two major grants helped significantly reduce that number, including $2,500 from the Jackson EMC Foundation and roughly $9,000 to cover class sponsorships from a local family foundation.

But ultimately, meeting our goal would not have been possible without the widespread community support that we are so fortunate to have. The rest of those sponsorships – roughly $20,000 – came from individuals and businesses.

They saw a challenge, stepped up to meet it, and with us they reveled in watching the number of children needing sponsors get smaller with each passing day. Take a look at our Facebook gallery of cover photos chronicling this countdown to see what we’re talking about. It’s pretty remarkable.

Some folks gave $1,000 to sponsor two classrooms, or 40 children – and we were blown away by their generosity. Some people gave $10, noting that “every little bit counts” – and we were equally blown away by the support of these individuals with tight budgets digging deep to give what they could. Thank you to everyone who gave at these levels, and everywhere in between!

These gifts, large and small, each have their own significance and [...]

By |January 7th, 2014|Uncategorized|Comments Off on A big goal reached, and a big “thank you”|

Giving and receiving with Gaines Elementary

This time of year, we’re reminded that there is beauty in both giving and receiving.

As a charity that relies on donated books and funds – so we can turn around and give books to children – we are constantly aware of this fact. We receive so we can give. We find joy and purpose in giving, and are sustained in receiving.

But, the beauty of this synergy was highlighted for us in a spectacular way today.

This morning, Leslie met Media Specialist Angie Pendley and P.E. Teacher Gordon Walls at the warehouse to receive a truckload of donated books. Simple enough – we get donated books all of the time.

Here’s what is really special about this donation: These books were collected through a book drive at Gaines Elementary School, one of the schools where we distribute books each spring.

And there were 2,458 of them. That’s right: 2,458 books collected by students who annually receive books from us.

It was all organized by Angie, and it exceeded her wildest expectations.

Many of the donated books are ones that students received from us in past years – books they have grown out of, and want other children to benefit from. For an organization that got its start purely through collecting used books, there’s something really special about this. We still rely heavily on used books, but to receive donations from the very children we benefit – well, it’s a wonderful embodiment of the spirit of giving.

At the beginning of the book drive, Angie told students in the media center that this would be a way of giving back to an organization that gives to them. It’s awe-inspiring to see students recognize that they have the power to give the same [...]

By |December 20th, 2013|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Giving and receiving with Gaines Elementary|