The Mt. Bethel book drive is complete, and what an experience it was! We’ve never participated in a book drive this size. We got to try a lot of new things, and learned so much… in addition to collecting what we believe is over 20,000 books!

We’ll be counting these books for weeks to come, but in the meantime, here are some book drive highlights.

It started with an idea. Cliff, Donna and Johnna thought BFK would be an ideal project for Mt. Bethel’s “To the Least, To the Lost” program. They wanted to see how many books they could collect, AND hold volunteer sort days at the church. Minister Randy Mickler gave the green light, and the work started.

First Glen, a top-notch videographer, came to Athens to shoot a promotional video, which was shown at every Mt. Bethel service on the Sunday of our book drive kickoff.

Books for Keeps from Mt. Bethel UMC on Vimeo.

Mt. Bethel rented a POD, and donors dropped off books throughout the week. As you can see, things can get a little messy with a large book drive….

… so Cliff, Donna, and Johnna frequently unloaded, then RE-loaded the POD to free up space. Talk about a workout!

Then things got a little… scary. Picture this: Kay and I arrive at Mt. Bethel, ready to lead two days of volunteer sorting. We have no idea who, or how many will show up. And we see this: a giant POD, packed all the way to the ceiling… and it’s located a good 100 yards from the building where we’ll be sorting. These books must somehow make it from the POD, across the parking lot, and through two sets of doors to reach our sort rooms.

A group of 20 women and children gathered to help, and awaited instructions. I’m not gonna lie… I wanted to run far, far away!

There are no photos of these two days…. they were two of the most hectic, most challenging days of my BFK career. But they were also two of the most inspiring, most educational days, too. Volunteers arrived in a steady stream all day long, and after a call for help on the Mt. Bethel Facebook page, more strong backs arrived to help move this POD full of books. The generosity of the volunteers was amazing – to show up to sort books on the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving!

Kay and I quickly realized there was no way we could finish in two days. We decided to focus on packing the adult books for the book sale. It took two whole days! Volunteers separated books into adult vs. children. Armed with lists of authors to pull for use in our high school program, volunteers sorted out the adult books we could use and boxed up the rest to save for the book sale. There are 3 pallets, just like this one, filled with books for our next book sale fundraiser.

That left the children’s books. Volunteers separated picture books from chapter books, and put them into sturdy bins for protection. At the end of the two days, Rory and Cliff and the Mt. Bethel volunteers moved ALL the books back to the POD.

Mt. Bethel provided delivery of the books to Athens, which was a blessing all by itself. This sturdy group of guys unload the POD into the moving van. We didn’t get a picture of the loaded van, but let me tell you – I swooned when it pulled up to the Fire and Flavor warehouse.

What happened next is a beautiful example of how things work out here at Books for Keeps, just when we need them to. It could have taken all day to unload that van! But no. Mt. Bethel sent 3 strong guys to help. Niolon Lumber donated a huge stack of storage pallets, and Fire and Flavor provided a forklift – and driver.

So… the three guys backed the van up to the loading dock, set the pallets right under the truck, and sat the bins on the pallets.

Jason picked up the pallets with the forklift and moved them into the warehouse. He wrapped the pallets full of book sale books and put them up on a high shelf, and neatly arranged the rest of the books in an out-of-the-way space.

Why am I so excited over a forklift and some pallets? Last year we moved every book, every box, using our arms and legs, a hand truck, or a cart. Thousands, and thousands of books… from the parking lot, up a step, and through 3 sets of doors! The Fire and Flavor warehouse is set up for just this sort of work, and it was exhilarating to see it in action.

How does one say thank you for an undertaking so large, involving so many people, with such an enormous impact? Donna, Cliff, Johnna, Glen, Rory and Jason – you are officially pronounced “BFK Heroes”.

But to the many other Mt. Bethel folks who donated books, moved books, or helped in so many other ways: we may never know your names or what you did, but the children of Athens will benefit from your generosity. Thank you. Two little words… so much meaning.