(part of a monthly series)

How did you first hear or learn about Books for Keeps?

Through Vicky Wilkins [friend of founder, Melaney Smith, and early board member] when I was teaching in the MPA program 8-9 years ago, before Leslie was hired. My class helped the board do some planning and also taught the board some fundraising fundamentals to help them obtain the resources needed to hire an executive director.

Photo courtesy of GA Tech online: https://art.library.gatech.edu/everyday-ga/joan-prittie/

How long have you been volunteering or serving with Books for Keeps?

There was this initial work through my class and then a bit of a gap. I have now been on the board of directors for 5 years. I had previously met with Vicky and Melaney before the class project, but board service was the next move.

Why did you choose to serve on the Books for Keeps’ board?

Certainly the experience working with and getting to know Melaney and the early supporters helped me learn the story and get to know the mission. But also a lifelong love of reading instilled by my family played a big part. I want all children to have the gift of that experience [of loving reading] and have access to books.

Have you had an inspiring/memorable interaction with a student since working with Books for Keeps? (This can be a direct interaction or something you observed.) If so, tell us about it.

Yes. I was at a distribution at Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary School, and I was checking in with a couple of little girls after they had made their selection of books.
They lived in the same federally funded housing community, and they had been very strategic in choosing their books. They chose all different books so that they could trade their books over the summer. I was impressed with how they had discovered they could double their resources and get the most out of their books.

Have you worked with other non-profits in the past? Which ones?

I’m the current Executive Director of Project Safe. I have also over the years served on a number of nonprofit boards- the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Athens Area Humane Society, Athens Nurses Clinic, Just Equal- a variety of different boards. I I have also served on the board of Elders at my church.
As another way of volunteering, I have also done a lot of consulting/advising of nonprofits, mentoring of executive directors, board training, and other foundational type things.
In ten years of teaching nonprofit classes at UGA, I’ve also created class projects that have given students the opportunity to work with and provide products to non-profits.

What strengths are you bringing to Books for Keeps?

An understanding of how nonprofits work and things that help nonprofits to flourish. And [I bring] a lot of experience in that area and a love of nonprofits. I’m an evangelist of nonprofits and what they can do when they run well.

What is your favorite memory from working with Books for Keeps?

One favorite memory is sitting upstairs in the conference room at First American Bank downtown before I ever met Vicky Wilkins or Melaney- and before my class was involved. I was there to talk about Project Safe, and going right in front of me was this woman who was talking about starting an organization to give books to kids- and had been doing the work from her dining room table. And like everyone in the room, I was completely transfixed with the elegance of the solution to the issue being addressed and her commitment to doing it.

Do you have a keen childhood memory related to a particular book? Or an experience with reading – to yourself or to a loved one?

My only sibling is my older brother who is 11 years ahead of me, and he had a quite lucrative lawn care business in the summers. He was paid additional sums of money for effort above and beyond just cutting the grass- trimming, raking up the grass, etc.- maybe $2 extra. So he would enlist me as a very small child to rake up the grass. I adored by big brother and would do anything he asked me to, so I always said yes. [It was] the worship only a little sister can demonstrate.
After he would say, “well I could give you the extra $2, but you’re just a little kid. What do you need money for? Why don’t you just go into my bedroom and pick out books?” So I did- I always fell for it. He was a boy and a lot older, so I got Call of the Wild and Mark Twain and Robinson Crusoe- all great adventures. I was straining to read these stories, but I loved it. It helped me cultivate my love of the world and the love of travel I have now.

What is your absolute favorite book?

I can’t answer that. It’s too hard a question.

What would you read if you could only read one book for the rest of your life?

This is also an unfair question. I would have to go with the Bible for this one. But it’s pretty sad to imagine that I could only have one book for the rest of my life.