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.

Gordon and Angie with booksThis 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 joy to other children.

The students most successful at collecting books in the school were the oldest ones – and they oversaw the effort with little encouragement needed from adults.

The students of Mrs. Chrisp's and Mr. Pihera's fifth-grade class single-handedly collected 269 books -- more than one-tenth of the books collected in the Gaines Elementary School book drive.

The students of Mrs. Chrisp’s and Mr. Pihera’s fifth-grade class single-handedly collected 269 books — more than one-tenth of the books collected in the Gaines Elementary School book drive.

As Angie shared, one fifth-grade student rallied his fellow classmates by reminding them that they have received books from Books for Keeps two years in a row. “Come on guys, we can do this!” he encouraged them. That one classroom collected 269 books on their own – more than 10 percent of the school’s overall donations.

Our hearts are full, and we are absolutely filled with the Christmas spirit.

THANK YOU, Gaines Elementary School, Angie Pendley, Mr. Walls (for use of your truck!), students, faculty, and staff. We’re so pleased to give to your students each spring, and so delighted to receive books from you as well.

It really is the most wonderful time of the year.