2011 started with a Books for Keeps miracle. A hole in the roof led to a few collapsed ceiling tiles in our storage room. 15,000+ books at risk… but when the ceiling tiles collapsed, they fell at an angle that dumped water into the aisles, right between the wall-to-wall shelves of books.

10 books were damaged. TEN. It makes my knees weak just thinking about it. I kept my cool, surveying the damage, inspecting books, moving boxes out of harm’s way. But when I realized only 10 books were damaged, I burst into tears. Truly these books are being watched over, protected for a mighty purpose.

The roof was repaired just in time for what’s being called “Snowpocalypse” and “SnOMG” in Athens: 6-9 inches of show. Schools have been canceled 4 days in a row, the streets are still icy, and we southerners are going stir crazy.

I’m so thankful the roof is repaired. I’m so thankful only 10 books were damaged. I’m so thankful I have 15,000+ books to protect!

About those books: 10,000 of them are children’s books to distribute this May. Another 5,000ish are adult books that have been donated along the way… I certainly never saw that coming! And so a book sale is in our future. Leigh and Whitney, two Athens volunteers, are heading up that effort. Hopefully it will provide some much-needed cash, so we can round out our inventory just in time for May.

Our first donation for 2011 came from Jan in Davis, CA, a frequent donor who sends boxes of Book Crossing books periodically. I’m so grateful to the women I consider our “Books for Keeps Angels”… a handful of women from all over the U.S. and Canada who ship books here to Athens, over and over again. These women gave Books for Keeps its start. If not for their generosity and enthusiasm, it’s very likely there’d be no Books for Keeps. So it’s fitting that one of them became our first donor of the new year. Thank you Jan!

Thank you also to the members of Christus Victor Lutheran church in Athens. Cathy dropped off a carload of books collected at their church book drive. Can’t wait to see what’s in those boxes!

Speaking of Cathy… Books for Keeps is starting to have some regulars here on the ground in Athens, hallelujah! Cathy is lining up church book drives; Asia and Kim are helping at the sort room; Leigh and Whitney are organizing the book sale; Lauren keeps us connected to community resources; Shayne keeps a steady stream of ideas coming our way and provides an injection of enthusiasm just when I need it most. I could keep going, but you might stop reading. I’m just so thankful for these helping hands (and brains!)

We’re in the process of becoming an official nonprofit organization! I should receive our incorporation papers any day now. Next step: filing the IRS forms applying for 501(c)(3) status. The forms are intimidating to say the least, but thanks to Celia and Intellgracs Group, we have professional help, free of charge.

Books for Keeps will have 2 main challenges this year, and they’re related: 1) fund-raising and 2) communications. It’s hard to raise funds without some good communications help, but it’s hard to get good communications help without funding! It’s a vicious circle that makes my head spin.

As far as funding goes: we definitely need to purchase books to round out our inventory for the May distributions. That’s a given. But it also takes money to pull off an operation of this size too. From the tarps I need to protect our books from another roof leak to the constant supply of packing tape to seal boxes of books for storage… it all costs money.

So I’m venturing into the world of grants and fund-raising. I’m very nervous about it. But for now, I’ll have to stick with viral marketing as my only method for spreading the word about Books for Keeps. Which means… it’s mission-critical that all of you tell people about us.

It’s been a crazy 6 months so I took some time off at the end of the year. I won’t stay away so long next time! But it seems like yesterday I posted a cry for help “I need 800 books in 12 days…” and many of YOU flooded my home with books from all over the country, making it possible for 400 kids in Athens to keep reading over the summer.

I still don’t know how many kids we’ll help this summer, it all depends on how many books come in over the next 3-4 months. I can’t wait to see what happens!


PS: If you’re not already, follow the Books for Keeps story on Facebook and Twitter.