Let me get this one thing out of the way before I start: I did a pretty poor job of keeping this blog updated in 2011. It’s not for lack of interest, I assure you. Books for Keeps had the most amazing year, but with an exponential increase in books comes an exponential increase in work!

The rewards increased exponentially too. Seeing all those children… so excited to choose 12 books each… one volunteer called it a life-changing experience. I agree! Another favorite moment: meeting this woman and her daughter, who stopped by our booth at the Athens Farmer’s Market.

This little girl received 12 books during our May distributions, and she read every one of them. Her mother wanted me to know (and gave me permission to share) that the family is on a severely limited income, and trips to the library are difficult. It gave her peace of mind to know her daughter had books of her own to read during the summer. She told me that she believes the books we gave her daughter will make a difference in her daughter’s achievement.

Yes, meeting Bill Clinton was pretty amazing too, but could there be a more powerful motivation to keep working, even when the going gets tough around here? The children are the motivation that keeps us all going.

Books continue to pour in, and I’m reminded of a Facebook post from a woman regarding her children: “Dear God, thank you for these beautiful, abundant blessings, but please, now could you help me manage them?!”

Our book-raising abilities have reached a new level – one that requires an actual organization and infrastructure to support it. We are actively recruiting volunteers to take on organizational responsibilities, from accounting to marketing to warehouse operations. We’re looking for candidates for our Board of Directors – people with rock-solid experience who can head up key areas of our board and organization. We need help. Lots of help.

And the day I knew was coming is finally here: we’re going to have to focus on fund-raising. It costs money to process, store, and transport this volume of books, and we’re vulnerable without funds to cover key aspects of our operation.

The book sale was fun! But book sales aren’t going to cover what we’ll need. Collecting books is just step 1. We have to be able to store them, and more importantly, we have to be able to get them to the children!

What if we can’t find a truck company willing to donate delivery of the books to the schools? It would have cost about $400 last year; we’ll be covering twice the schools this year! We’ve already out-paced our supply of free cardboard boxes; what if U-Line hadn’t made a large donation of perfect boxes for us? What if Fire and Flavor hadn’t donated warehouse space? What if Niolon Lumber hadn’t donated the storage pallets we needed?

These nitty-gritty details keep me awake at night, because Athens kids pay the price if we drop the ball. I am so grateful to everyone helping us. In 2011, nearly every need we had was met – although often at the last minute – by someone who said “I am somebody. I can do something.” It’s quite an emotional roller coaster… to feel so incredibly vulnerable and worried, then so elated and grateful when a critical need is met at a critical moment.

2012 is going to be an interesting year at Books for Keeps. A year of reaching at least twice as many children as before… and a year of organizational growth to make this possible. If our history is any indication, you and our other supporters will rise to the challenge and help us place more books in more children’s homes and END summer slide in Athens GA and beyond.

Thank you for your support in 2011. We distributed over 25,000 books! We now turn our thoughts to 2012, and wish you and your families a happy new year from Books for Keeps!