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Elbert County ROCKin’ Reading Challenge Signup

Welcome to the signup for the 2021 Elbert County ROCKin’ Reading Challenge!

You can find a link to the signup form here or by using the embedded form below.

To find the weekly tip videos, find them on the Books for Keeps YouTube page here.

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Meet new board member Erin Parks!

(part of a monthly series)

How did you first learn about Books for Keeps?

I learned about BFK through the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business.

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

I have been on the Board through the Terry Board Fellows program since October of 2020.

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

I have always had a passion for reading that started at a very young age. I believe that it is important to increase access to books and encourage a child to read. Books are where the world begins to open.

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

Even though it may look a little different from the past, it has been exciting to see the photos and videos of kids receiving their books this Spring and reading with their classmates.

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

I have worked with several nonprofits over the years. They have all generally had a mission rooted in education/helping students succeed. For example, the Colorado “I Have A Dream” Foundation in Denver, CO was dedicated to providing wrap-around services to students.

What strengths are you bringing to Books for Keeps?

In addition to a genuine desire to see the organization succeed and serve as many students in the Athens and greater Athens area, I have experience with supporting organizations’ communications plans and social media.

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

I have had the opportunity to volunteer in the warehouse a few times this Spring to pack books and work with other volunteers. Just seeing the variety and volume of [...]

From Leslie: A note of farewell, a note of thanks

Last month, Executive Director Leslie Hale announced she would be stepping down from Books for Keeps after eight years as its first paid executive director. What follows is a fond farewell, including a note at the end about how you can keep up with her, if you wish.
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It’s hard to know where to start in summing up eight years – eight years that have been formative, full of growth, and defined by hard-fought change for Books for Keeps (not to mention for myself).

So, I’ll start from a place that is always fitting, and that I’ve increasingly learned the importance of over time: I’ll say thank you first.

I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for the people who trusted me as the first paid employee of Books for Keeps (particularly Founder Melaney Smith and then-Board President Vicky Wilkins). I remain forever grateful that Melaney was willing to hand the reins to me, entrusting me with this baby nonprofit born out of literal blood, sweat, and tears. Thank you, Melaney, from the bottom of my heart.

There are so many interns, board members, early employees, and volunteers who came along for the ride as we figured out how to do this thing. There are far too many of you to name – but please know that my heart bursts to think of the ways you contributed, and you trusted my leadership when I sometimes didn’t trust in it myself.

And donors – the incredible people who trust us with their hard-earned money, believing that we will exercise care and prudence with it – and that we will do something that is both effective and life-changing for children in this community. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I can absolutely say [...]

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is coming to Books for Keeps!

(official press release)

Books for Keeps to Become New Home for Clarke County Early Literacy Program

 

ATHENS, Ga. – Books for Keeps is proud to announce the addition of Clarke County Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program to our organization’s growing complement of whole-family services.

This program, previously run by United Way of Northeast Georgia, is an asset to children from birth to age five and their parents. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is a book gifting program that mails free, high-quality books for children from birth to age five to children from birth to age five, regardless of their barriers to book access.

This program, previously run by United Way of Northeast Georgia for the past nine years, has been an asset to our community’s children in building a life-long, foundational love of reading. Books for Keeps (BFK) will officially assume administration of the Clarke County portion of the program on October 1, 2021.  

“Bringing this well-loved, highly respected program under the growing umbrella of Books for Keeps’ family literacy programming makes so much sense, and it’s a thrill for Books for Keeps,” said Books for Keeps Program Manager Justin Bray. “As we have expanded to reach every elementary student in Athens, BFK has increasingly turned our attention to how we can build a greater foundation for success among our students. Becoming the new home for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library will help us do that more intentionally and fully.” 

At Books for Keeps, children in Clarke County and their families are the focus, giving them access to resources that help them grow both their love of reading and their literacy skills. The first five years of a child’s life represent a critical developmental stage and, per data evaluations, children who receive [...]

Onward and Upward: notes on spring 2021 book distributions

If 2020 was a year for simply surviving – getting by with whatever semblance of normalcy we could scrape together – 2021 has been a year for reminding ourselves just how resilient we can be, even in the face of continued hardship.

The schools and the students we serve are a reminder for us of this fact every day – and it’s why we’re excited to share final numbers from our spring book distributions:

108,000 books delivered – either to students’ schools or directly to their homes with the help of our nonprofit partners at First Book.
We served 9,437 students in grades Pre-K through 5, attending schools in five counties.
We had the privilege in this strange year of expanding our service population – adding grades Pre-K and fifth in Elbert County thanks to a state literacy grant, and adding an entire school, Morgan County Elementary, because of the hard work of their media specialist, Kathi Edwards, and a grant from the Walton EMC Foundation. (Morgan County third- through fifth-graders got to choose four books each. We hope to expand our offerings to a full 12-books-per-student in future years, dependent on funding.)
It took 2,127 hours by volunteers between February and mid-May to set the warehouse up and then pack student orders (more on that below), though it was a pleasure working in the late-winter and early spring months as opposed to the sweltering days we spent in the warehouse between May and August of 2020 packing and delivering student orders!
More than 292 unique volunteers worked with us throughout this process, filling 553 volunteer spots across 71 shifts. On average, that’s 5 hours contributed on average by each volunteer [...]

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 [...]

By |May 11th, 2021|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Meet new board member Mary Alston Killen!|

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 [...]

By |May 5th, 2021|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Books for Keeps seeks an Executive Director|

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|