Books for Keeps blog

Meet new board member Mary Alston Killen!

(part of a monthly series)

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

I first heard about Books for Keeps in 2016 when former UGA wide receiver and alumnus Malcolm Mitchell spoke at a University of Georgia development meeting about his children’s book, The Magician’s Hat, and his partnership with Books for Keeps to provide a copy to every first-grade student in the Clarke County School District. BFK’s mission to provide underserved schools with books for kids immediately piqued my interest and I was excited to learn that that BFK’s founder, Melany Smith, also worked at UGA.

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

I’m a newbie! Former BFK member and friend, Jamie Cumbie, thought I would enjoy the opportunity to give back to the community through this organization as much as she did and threw my name in the hat as a nominee for the board, which I enthusiastically pursued. I was fortunate enough to be accepted and have been serving with Books for Keeps since January 2021.

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

Being a part of the University of Georgia as both a student and employee has afforded me countless opportunities but I wanted to engage more with the greater community. I am an advocate for higher education for all and I think it is critical that kids develop their reading and critical thinking skills as early as possible so that they can be put on a path toward academic success. Books for Keeps helps fill the gap of inequity by providing books for kids who may not otherwise have access to them, which is a mission I am proud to support.

Have you [...]

Books for Keeps seeks an Executive Director

Come lead a team that makes magic happen for thousands of area children through hard work, relentless positivity, and access to world-expanding books!

Books for Keeps, based in Athens, GA, is hiring to fill the role of executive director. Read details of the position below along with info on how to apply. For a print-friendly version, click here:

BFK Executive Director job description

Executive Director – Job Description

The Executive Director is the chief executive officer of Books for Keeps. The Executive Director is responsible for overseeing the administration, programs, and strategic plan of the organization, leading a team of three employees and more than 1,200 volunteers annually. Additionally, the Executive Director is responsible for the organization’s consistent achievement of its mission and financial objectives. The position reports directly to the Board of Directors. 

About Books for Keeps (BFK): Books for Keeps started as a volunteer-led, grassroots program in 2009 to place books in the hands of children from low-income families. Since that time, Books for Keeps has distributed more than 700,000 books (and growing) to children, teachers, fellow community-based organizations, and other individuals in Georgia. In short, Books for Keeps has blossomed into an evidence-based nonprofit that gives away 100,000 books annually to children attending 21 schools in Northeast Georgia. Every school served contains a high proportion of children qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch through the National School Lunch Program; in each school served, every child is invited to pick out 12 books to take home – and keep – just in time for summer. All books distributed are new or like-new, acquired through community book drives and through partnerships with national literacy nonprofits and publishers.

Under a new strategic plan launched in 2020, Books for Keeps is growing a [...]

Meet new board member Susie Weller

(part of a monthly series)

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

From Leslie! We have been in many non-profit leadership trainings together.

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

I have been on the board and serving in that capacity since Jan 2021.

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

I am a big fan of reading and Leslie. I am grateful to be building my skills and sharing my experience with such a great organization.

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

I am the executive director of Children First, Inc a local Athens non-profit that engages families in our community and the courts to promote safe, stable and nurturing living environments for children. We have three programs: Athens-Oconee CASA where trained volunteers advocate for children in foster care, SafeCare where we provide in-home parenting to help maintain children safely in the home and SPARC where we work with non custodial parents to help gain access to their children. I collaborate with many other Athens Area nonprofits and government agencies in the child welfare world.

What strengths are you bringing to Books for Keeps?

Humor, following through with tasks, and nonprofit leadership experience.

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

Last year, we had a [virtual] holiday game night. That was a great way to begin working on this board.

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

Yes. As a kid, reading and books were all great pastimes for me. Over the summers, my siblings and I read books out loud to each other on camping [...]

By |April 9th, 2021|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Meet new board member Susie Weller|

Meet new board member Keith Roberson

(part of a monthly series)

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

I think I knew about Books for Keeps back in college, and I believe I volunteered the first time right when I was starting with Epting about 8 years ago. That’s when I found out about Books for Keeps and what the mission is. And I always enjoyed reading as a kid and had a sentimental connection to that message. And then when Leslie and I were in Lead Athens together, we got an Epting group together for a warehouse shift and helped out with some distributions. It was great to actually see how things work.

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

It really goes back to what I was saying about that warm part of my heart when I think about reading and books and how much I learned and grooved from them in that impressionable part of my life. My brother and sister and I always did the summer reading challenges and loved it. My sister and I both loved things like Anne McCaffrey and would read those books. Reading so many different genres of books opened my mind and really made me want to learn. So when I was asked to join the board, I thought back to that and said “yes, absolutely.” I really want kids to feel those things that I felt.

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

I’ve worked with several political groups and nonprofit orgs, multiple chambers of commerce, and some work with the Jackson County Family Connections through the Jackson Co Chamber of Commerce.

What strengths are you bringing to Books for Keeps?

Hopefully I can bring [...]

By |March 11th, 2021|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Meet new board member Keith Roberson|

Meet new board member Terris Thomas

(part of a monthly series)

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

I learned of Books for Keeps back in 2010 when the Nonprofit launched and at the time was serving only Alps Road families. At the time I worked with FC-CIS in the same role I have now, but with the Whatever It Takes Initiative.

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

This is my first time working with Books for Keeps. But I’ve been encouraging families to engage since the program started.

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

Actually, I love the mission of the organization and am personally a strong support of Literacy. I am incredibly happy to know that I am serving my community in an organization whose focus, vision, and mission is to provide children with literacy support and tools.

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

I currently work with Family Connection – Communities In Schools of Athens, I have served as an Executive board member of Nancy Travis Project, Slater Foundation for Youth and Strong Base Inc.

What strengths are you bringing to Books for Keeps?

I think I am bringing my experience of working with families in our community. In that, I will be able to share firsthand their perspectives, suggestions, and concerns. But what I’m really excited to bring is my strength of joy. I work to be a person who brings joy with me into situations, and I’m excited to bring that joy to Books for Keeps.

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

My memories again are those from the start. I recall how the Neighborhood Leaders that I supervised back [...]

By |February 24th, 2021|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Meet new board member Terris Thomas|

Books for Keeps is hiring for three positions!

Come join a team that makes magic happen for thousands of area children through hard work, relentless positivity, and access to world-expanding books!

Books for Keeps, based in Athens, GA, is hiring to fill three part-time positions: one permanent position coordinating family literacy activities and two seasonal positions responsible for helping execute our spring book distributions. Read details of the positions and learn how to apply by clicking the below links:

Family Literacy Coordinator (part-time, permanent – 1 opening)
Spring Program Coordinator (part-time, temporary – 2 openings)

Books for Keeps is an Equal Employment Opportunity employer. We offer a fast-paced, high-energy, relentlessly positive culture that feeds on hard work, mutual support, and shared laughter. We believe the work of Books for Keeps must be done with the communities we serve and not to or for the communities we serve. As such, we strongly encourage applicants who are reflective of our community in all its diversity. 

By |February 16th, 2021|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Books for Keeps is hiring for three positions!|

Spring 2021 program update: we’re going back to the moon

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” ~Henry David Thoreau
It was 10.5 months ago that the Books for Keeps team started considering what felt like a truly crazy, moonshot style idea. We did it in response to a short-term crisis we knew could have profound long-term consequences.

In concrete terms, what it means is that we built a fully functioning e-Commerce website with our inventory of tens of thousands of books listed, for students to browse, so that we could deliver those free books directly to their homes while they were sheltering in place. (It still sounds crazy to type those words, all these months later.)

Between May and August, volunteers packed more than 53,000 books in our warehouse, a partner fulfilled another 15,000 books for outlying counties, and they were all delivered to students’ doorsteps using volunteer help and the magic of FedEx. We pivoted. We pivoted the heck out of it. And we delivered for more than 5,300 kids who we expected to see in their school media centers.

In late March of 2020, our organization felt certain that things would be weird for a while. And we knew we had to act to keep students’ minds engaged, to give them outlets to dream and explore, and to allow them to connect with reading as a joyful pursuit. We also knew we might have to move heaven and earth for our moonshot idea. And then, we knew this thing we worked to build so hard might become defunct again in a matter of months when things returned to normal.

Call this the year of continually adjusted expectations. Our [...]

By |February 4th, 2021|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Spring 2021 program update: we’re going back to the moon|

Meet new board member Tiara Smith

(part of a monthly series)

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

I don’t remember the year, but I first learned of Books for Keeps through the MLK Day of Service in Athens.

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

I have been consistently volunteering with Books for Keeps for five years.

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

I believe in the mission of Books for Keeps – to help curb the summer slide in reading.

Have you had an inspiring/memorable interaction with a student since working with Books for Keeps?

I think my most memorable interaction was with a group of girls (I believe they were in second grade) at Barnett Shoals Elementary School in 2018. Even though in multiple classes, several of them asked for the same book and I just thought “oh, this must be a popular book.” It turns out that these young girls were forming a summer book club!! I thought that was one of the most awesome things ever☺

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

I currently work for Brightpaths (formerly Prevent Child Abuse Athens) which is a non-profit.

What strengths are you bringing to Books for Keeps?

Many years of experience working with families in multiple ways.

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 favorite childhood memory as it relates to reading is participating in the summer reading programs at the library. I loved seeing my name move across the wall as the number of books/hours I read increased. I actually don’t remember if we got prizes at the end of the [...]

By |January 19th, 2021|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Meet new board member Tiara Smith|

BFK’s Favorite Reads of 2020

Leslie’s Favorite Books of 2020

I’ve clung to a mantra this year that defines my professional life and a slice of my personal life: books provide the hope and the escape we all need, and they can become our saving grace. eel cringe-y. tunity to escape, to become absorbed in a narrative, and sometimes to lose myself in someone else’s sorrows – because some of my favorite books this year really were steeped in loss and longing and strife. (The Nightingale gave me the best, most cleansing cry I’ve had in a long time.) It was also a year for me to pick up some books I’ve long wanted to read with my 6-year-old daughter, to have moments to escape together, but also to feel her body curled against mine, rapt in a narrative I read as a child (Summer of the Monkeys) or I read for the first time as she grew inside me (as with the first two Harry Potter books). It was a year to revisit a long-held favorite (Their Eyes Were Watching God) and to understand the author’s own story better (Wrapped in Rainbows, a gift from my husband on my birthday). This was also a year to, when necessary, recognize my own inability to commit to long narratives, allowing myself to pick up collections of short stories and graphic novels far more often than I have in the past. Some of those graphic novels got me through truly difficult times – including the beginning of our collective lockdown in March, and the five days I spent quarantined from my family in my bedroom during one COVID scare in our household. A lot of things saved me this year – I can’t place the credit [...]

By |January 5th, 2021|Uncategorized|Comments Off on BFK’s Favorite Reads of 2020|

Sponsor spotlight: Georgia Power

Georgia Power is one of those singular sponsors that has been there for Books for Keeps since the very beginning – and has not missed a single year of support. They are truly among a special and dear circle of donors.

Their first donation was logged with Books for Keeps in 2011, the year of our founding.

At a time when we were still proving ourselves to many in the community, just trying to get noticed as a tiny volunteer-run organization, Georgia Power heard Melaney’s passion and vision and they got behind it.

What is particularly meaningful is that Georgia Power committed to increase its financial support in this year of unprecedented challenges – sponsoring two grade-levels at Gaines Elementary School in Athens.

This is far and away the largest gift of support by Georgia Power to our program, and it speaks to a singular commitment they have to children and education.

Beyond that, they’re committed to so many causes and ways of lifting up the Athens community and surrounding region – from working with our local United Way to participating in days of service to make improvements at other community gems like Bear Hollow Zoo, pictured here.

External Affairs Manager Christy Terrell leads the charge for Georgia Power, but she also volunteers her time on numerous local boards and initiatives, providing the strategic leadership so many of us nonprofits rely on.

With this gift from Georgia Power, we’ll be able to bring books to 160

students at Gaines Elementary School – providing them with 12 books each – sending more than 1,900 books going into the homes of these children for a summer full of learning, adventure, and exploration.

Like us, Georgia Power believes that the key to growing the vibrance and [...]

By |December 17th, 2020|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Sponsor spotlight: Georgia Power|