Books for Keeps blog

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|
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    One small step for BFK, one giant leap for the children we serve

One small step for BFK, one giant leap for the children we serve

We’re whittling away at it.

As of this morning, we need 261 sponsors for the children we serve. That’s out of 3,700 children who will receive books from BFK in May of 2014.

We’ve made huge progress since last month, when 1,195 children needed sponsors. We are always amazed at how far we can go in a short period – and at how the community will step up to meet a need.

Most recently, it came in the form of two class sponsorships in one day – at $500 each – and the news that we are to receive a $2,500 grant from Jackson EMC. That’s 140 children sponsored in one day.

We have 261 sponsorships to go before December 31. Why December 31?

By mid-January, we need to have all of the books on hand that will go to students in May. That’s because it takes a herculean effort to get the books divided up evenly for each school, and boxed for delivery.

(Just think – we can’t send every copy of “Junie B. Jones” to Gaines Elementary, and all of our “Goosebumps” to Winterville Elementary, and give every “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” to Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary! So we will spend the spring divvying up and preparing books for delivery.)

If you’ve already given – thank you. You have no idea how much your contribution – no matter how small – will mean to a child this spring.

If you’re unable to make a donation, help us spread the word! Share this blog post with friends and family, with folks you know who care about reading and education. It takes just $25 to sponsor a child, or $500 to sponsor a whole classroom. We have 261 sponsors to go. It’s a [...]

By |December 18th, 2013|Uncategorized|Comments Off on One small step for BFK, one giant leap for the children we serve|

BIG progress – 3,153 down, just 546 to go

Today, we’re sharing some big news. A successful week – combined with the news that we have received a major grant – cut the number of un-sponsored children down the 546.

Just one week ago, we posted here about needing sponsors for 1,195 children.

We’re blown away by this outpouring of support for what Books for Keeps is doing. The grant we’ve received is specifically meant to fund our program expansion to Winterville Elementary School, one of two Athens schools we will serve for the first time in 2014.

It’s also the largest single grant ever received by Books for Keeps. Wow.

Add that to a stellar week for donations – we had a 24-hour challenge to meet a $1,500 match from an anonymous donor – and we are chugging along toward our goal. (We met the challenge, by the way – with just moments to spare on Friday afternoon!)

In 2014, we’ll distribute 45,000 books. To 3,700 children. In nine schools.

Can we do it?

If we keep up the pace, we can. But we have to keep up that pace.

We still need sponsors for 546 children, a little more than 26 classrooms. Considering how many children we’ll be serving in 2014, that’s a small number.

But it’s still significant. We’ve committed to provide 12 books each to those children. We can’t go back on our commitment.

So, it’s up to us to make sure we have the books we need. And we must have faith that our community – which continually blows us away with its support – will step up to that challenge.

It takes just $25 to sponsor a child, providing him or her with 12 books to read all summer. Businesses, extended families, church groups, or civic groups can [...]

By |December 10th, 2013|Uncategorized|Comments Off on BIG progress – 3,153 down, just 546 to go|

A small start + modest thinking = something HUGE

It helps to think back to how things began.

Like the excitement of falling in love, moving to a new place, starting a new job – remembering how things started often keeps us going. We push through the hard times, we find reasons to work even harder, we build on strong foundations.

Four-and-a-half years ago, the kernel of an idea was planted in Books for Keeps founder Melaney Smith’s brain. It took root, and through friends, community support, and a lot of hard work, that seed sprang forth into something remarkable.

And it grew. And it keeps growing. In 2014, Books for Keeps will distribute 45,000 books to 3,700 children at nine schools.

But this is how it all began. We’re sharing with you Melaney’s first-ever blog post, from our (recently-retired) Blogspot blog. It’s titled “How to Help a 2nd Grader,” and it’s the simple appeal for help that launched a grassroots movement that would, two years later, go on to provide nearly 80,000 books to children who might otherwise have none.

Help us keep growing to reach more children. Help us reach our goal of 45,000 books by Dec. 31. Sponsor a child… give a gift in someone’s name… hold a book drive… today. (Click any of the underlined links to learn more.)


But first, enjoy:
I need some serious help in the brain-power department right now. I have about 3 weeks to handle a problem that is keeping me awake at night. Here’s the story:

My niece mentors a 2nd grade girl who attends one of Athens’ public schools. Let’s call her Jane. Jane loves to read, but has no books at home. Jane loves to color, but has no crayons at home.

Jane has a good friend in class, [...]

By |December 2nd, 2013|Uncategorized|Comments Off on A small start + modest thinking = something HUGE|

We need your help to reach our goal of 45,000 books

It’s that time of year again.

Our elves have been busy in the workshop (i.e.: the warehouse) getting ready for our version of Christmas: those May distributions are what we spend all year working toward.

Serving 3,700 children in grades K-5 means we will give out 45,000 books through our main program in 2014.

But this is also the time of year where we have to look at our inventory, our available funds, and see where we fall short.

We still need sponsors for 1,195 children. It takes just $25 to provide books and a tote bag to a child, keeping them stocked with books all summer.

Will you step up and help?

There are many ways to give. Via our donate page, you can:

Give in a loved one’s name. Tell us in the memo who you’re honoring, and we’ll email you a certificate to print and stuff in their stocking!
Adopt a classroom with friends, family, coworkers, a church group, or on behalf of a business.
Make a recurring pledge that renews every month for a whole year.

Sponsoring an entire classroom takes just $500. It’s a great opportunity for a business to make an impact in the community, for a church group to band together, for old friends to give back, or for an extended family to engage together in charitable giving.

What we need is pretty straightforward – it’s the funds to be able to reach the children in our program who don’t yet have sponsors. At just $25 a child, it’s manageable. It’s a trip for two people to the movies. It’s a dinner out. It’s a brand new hardback book we might buy for ourselves.

What these children get out of their 12 books is rich and complex. [...]

By |November 25th, 2013|Uncategorized|Comments Off on We need your help to reach our goal of 45,000 books|

It’s the most wonderful time of the year (for "Wimpy Kid" fans)

It’s that time of year, when all of the good little boys and girls count the days until he arrives.Think we’re talking about Santa? No way.In November, Greg Heffley returns in the eighth installment of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” entitled “Hard Luck.”We need your help bringing this book to the fourth- and fifth-graders we serve. It’s one of the most requested books, and one of the least donated.We have more than 300 currently in stock, which is great – but it still is not enough.In order to have enough books from this series for each child in the higher grades to pick out one, we need another 588 books from across this series.We are fortunate enough to have access to paperbacks of this highly popular, highly demanded book for just $3.05, available once the book is released in November.But, because we always have to be careful about our per-book cost, this great price is still too much without additional fundraising. Will you contribute to the Diary of a Wimpy Kid Fund and help us provide one of the most popular contemporary books to the fourth- and fifth-graders we serve?Your contribution will go a long way! Just $3.05 buys one book. Make a donation of $30.50 or more in someone’s name, and we’ll email you a certificate you can print at home to recognize them.When you make a donation by clicking the PayPal link at the right-hand side of the page, make sure to include a note with your payment identifying in whose honor you have made your donation.

By |October 16th, 2013|Uncategorized|Comments Off on It’s the most wonderful time of the year (for "Wimpy Kid" fans)|