Melanie150x175The following is a guest post from Books for Keeps founder and board member Melaney Smith. When she started giving books to Athens children in 2009, she had no idea the program would blossom into a full-fledged nonprofit. She set goals for herself – and the goals kept getting bigger. Now, she’s setting her biggest goal of all to mark her 50th birthday. In Melaney’s words:

Six years ago, I appealed for help when I met a little girl who loved to read, but was facing a summer without books. Not a single book in her home, and no access to the public library. Her teacher told me that many of her classmates were in the same boat, and would fall behind in school as a result.

I asked for help, and a miracle occurred. Family, friends, book lovers, and regular folks all over the U.S. responded, and the result was Books for Keeps, a research-based program that gives away 45,000 books each year to prevent summer slide. This video tells the story better than I ever could.

I started out with a blog to reach people and ask for help. I’m hoping this method still holds its magic. Because here it goes: another request for help, six years later.

I’m trying to raise $50,000 by my 50th birthday, to reach more children. I’ve got til the end of November, but hey, I’ll be 50 for a whole year so let’s see how it goes. My late start is due mostly to fear of failure, but I’m taking the leap.

Like last time, my first step is to ask for help. I hope you will. Here are some ideas:

Make a donation. If just 200 people were willing to contribute $250 each, I could call it a day! But I’ll take any amount, and make it count. Click here to donate now or mail a check payable to Books for Keeps to PO Box 49761, Athens GA 30604. (Whether online or check, please put “Mel’s 50th”in the memo line.)

Tell somebody. Books for Keeps got where it is today because the word spread. Share our video, with a link to this blog post, and let’s get something started.

Hit up your boss. Ask your employer to become a sponsor. $600 will purchase the books for an entire class.

Introduce me. Could I come tell the BFK story to a group at your church or workplace?

Turn a hobby into books for children. Think about what you like to do, and see if there’s an opportunity to turn it into a small fundraiser: A wine tasting, a tennis round robin, a bake sale, a golf outing…send pictures and I’ll share them.

PSA_3381Involve a group. Book clubs, your department at work, civic groups, tennis teams, sororities…

Can you imagine spending an entire summer sitting at home, with nothing to read? Many of the children we serve know what it’s like. It’s hard to describe the joy in the room when these children come to select their books, but this photo captures it pretty well.

More books for more children in more Athens schools, more Georgia cities and towns. Please help me make this a reality. Don’t focus on what you can’t do; think of what you CAN do. You’ll come up with something, trust me. Books for Keeps is living proof of what happens when people stop saying “Why doesn’t somebody DO something about this?” and start saying “I am somebody. I will do something about this.”