“I am somebody. I can do something.”


Meet our executive director

Justin Bray’s professional career began with Chick-fil-A in various training roles until eventually accepting a position with their home office, helping open new restaurants all across the nation. He hoped to use this opportunity to find a new place to call home– perhaps something a touch larger than Grayson, GA where he grew up- but not quite as stressful as Atlanta. It wasn’t until after a year of travel with Chick-fil-A that he returned to Grayson and took a trip just down the road from home to a beautiful place called Athens, where he fell hard and fast for the kooky little town.

This theme of opportunities being “just down the road from home” continued on through Justin’s life, even up to today. Like how opening the Rook & Pawn Board Game Cafe would lead to a position with Creature Comforts Brewing Company. Or how his now fianceé grew up just 5 minutes away from his childhood home, and how they reconnected shortly after she began her teaching career in the Clarke County School District. And even how his relationship with Books for Keeps began in a volunteer capacity, and the Program Manager position became a possibility just at the right time in his life.

Justin’s passion for people shows through his work and daily interactions with those in his community, and he couldn’t be more excited to carry that passion along with him to Books for Keeps. In his spare time, you can catch him Podcasting, riding bikes, and having fun in the kitchen with his wife Anna and their three furbabies. Email Justin


Meet our director of finance and administration

Rainey Lynch began working with Books for Keeps in February 2017. She joins the team with a background in communications, bookkeeping, and administrative management – a perfect fit, as she has been tasked with coordinating the organization’s social media and traditional media strategy, as well as managing Books for Keeps’ administrative, bookkeeping, and human resources needs.

Rainey was born and raised in South Georgia, where the rural setting helped foster her lifelong love of reading. After completing her degree in English literature at the University of Georgia, Rainey could not bear to leave Athens. A year after graduating, she was joined in Athens by her partner, and the two have been active community members ever since.
In her spare time, Rainey enjoys writing, volunteering, lying in the yard with her dog, biking about town, playing with her daughter, and reading- naturally. Email Rainey

Meet our family literacy coordinator

📸 cred: Early Girl Photography

Christine Mallozzi has spent her entire life involved in education. After her own schooling, she became a 5th & 6th grade teacher in Ohio in 1999 and soon began teaching literacy education courses at the University of Cincinnati. Christine decided that teaching teachers was an exciting way to effect change in schools and earned her Ph.D. in literacy education from The University of Georgia in 2009, before taking a position at the University of Kentucky where conducted literacy research and directed the UK Literacy Clinic. She often boiled down her job by saying, “I teach teachers how to teach reading,” guiding those teachers to find readers’ strengths to help address areas of growth. One of Christine’s favorite parts of running the clinic was developing relationships with the readers’ families as they worked to support their children.

After the birth of her own two children, Christine experienced several educational systems as a parent, most recently here in Athens, where she and her family returned in 2016 for her husband’s job. With Books for Keeps, she is happy to be able to add the role of family literacy educator to the perspectives she has been able to take along her path in the education world.

Christine loves live music, gardening, dancing, and snuggling with the kids and Honey the golden retriever for story time (“It’s my favorite time of the day.”).

Email Christine

Meet our founder

Melaney-and-HenryIn 2009, Melaney Smith heard about a little girl who was not looking forward to summer. The reason? This second-grader loved to read, but had no books at home. Melaney asked around and learned that there were many children in the same situation. In asking the question, “Why doesn’t somebody do something about this?” she realized, “I am somebody. I can do something.

Books for Keeps was launched from that point as a grassroots effort, and has since morphed into a research-based nonprofit dedicated to ending summer slide. It was all built around Melaney’s realization that she not only had the power to get books into children’s hands, but also to recruit the best people to help her do it.

In 2012, Melaney was named one of the “Exceptionals” by the Athens Banner-Herald, having been nominated for her work to end summer slide in Athens. In 2015, Melaney was named one of 10 Women of Worth by L’Oreal Paris in their 10th annual program recognizing women for making an impact on their communities.

After serving as acting executive director during the organization’s early years, Melaney transitioned into the role of (very active) volunteer. She currently works full-time as director of prospect management and analytics for the UGA Terry College of Business, and lives in Athens with her husband, Bayne, and two cats. Email Melaney


Meet our Board of Directors

Julie Denton, board president
Marketing & Public Relations Coordinator
First American Bank & Trust

Stephen Nobles, board vice president
Governance and Flexibility Specialist
Clarke County School District

Leigh Dillard
Associate Professor of English
University of North Georgia

Keith Roberson, board treasurer
General Manager
Barron’s Rental Center

Laura Evans,
Executive Director
Community Partnership of Elbert County, Inc.

Pamela Garcia
Fowler Drive Elementary School

Mary Alston Killen
Director of Donor Relations & Stewardship
UGA Franklin College of Arts & Sciences

Chandra Mincey
Staff Scientist
Ethicon, Inc.

Erin Parks, nonvoting
MBA Student
UGA Terry College of Business

Tiara Smith
Clinical Supervisor

Deirdre Sugiuchi

Terris Thomas
Director of Neighborhood Engagement
Family Connection-Communities in Schools of Athens
Susie Weller
Executive Director
Children First, Inc.