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Some are born for Good Deeds. Others have good deeds thrust upon them.
An email dropped in June 2015 requesting a donation of books for an organization in need:
"Good Day Sir,
I am a patron of your store and am interested in asking for your store to donate any books that will not sell to a couple of charities. One is for Family Services, Inc., a nonprofit organization in Montgomery County for which I serve on their Board… I would be more than happy to pick up your unwanted books at your convenience on a regular basis and get them to both organizations.
Thank you for your kind consideration…"
We receive a lot of requests for all kinds of donations. It is usually money that is sought. We do what we can. We run food drives throughout the year by offering coupons requiring a donation of canned food, and we have probably collected over 200,000 cans of food for local food banks over the years. We also give away thousands of books every year—mostly kids books. Teachers, schools, halfway houses. missions…In 2013 we partnered with PNC Bank to get every child in Frederick County Maryland an age appropriate book to take home for the summer. I believe we gave away about 19,000 books. PNC had volunteers deliver them to every Elementary School in the county.
What caught my eye about this email was not only was the person willing participate in the labor but the signature line. It was from an M.D. with her own Psychiatric practice. Well, if a doctor is willing to spend her scarce time getting books into the hands of kids who "need" them I felt obligated to pay special attention to this request.
I replied, and she said she would be willing to come in and box them and take them away. I like dedication and passion for books. It is something I understand and live with every day.
On her first visit I showed her what we had to offer.
The initial arrangement was she could take 500 free books every Quarter. In addition, if she could find monetary sponsors she could use that to take all she wanted at 25 cents per book.
She would email a couple days ahead. We would make sure there was easy access to nice Gaylords of kids books and boxes to put them in. When she was ready to leave, we would help load her vehicle.
We would chat occasionally and she described some the tragic situations these children find themselves in. Imagine homes without a single book! Imagine schools with no books and no library!
Books can rescue people. They can provide sustenance for the mind. I know that from personal experience. Dr Dryden-Edwards’s passion was infectious.
Then, just about a year after our first meeting I received this:
"Due to the immense generosity you continue to show through your book donations to Family Services, Wonderbooks will be awarded Family Services’ 2016 Community Partner of the Year Award. Please let me know if you can attend so we can honor you. Here are the details…"
I was embarrassed. I really hadn’t done anything but open the door. Roxanne did the work. But I attended the event—shy and awkward as always.
Roxanne was at the dais and related the Wonder Book-Family Services story. At the end she said:
"Chuck doesn’t know this but we have another name for him here. We call him the ‘Book Angel.’"
I know I wanted to melt into my chair. Likely, there was a flushed red glow about me as well. I’d done so little.
King David wrote in Psalm 8:
"What is man, that thou art mindful of him…
For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels,"
I’m just a book guy. Cynical too often. Grumpy. Worried and distracted by business concerns too much when "mankind should be our business"—at least a bigger part of the work.
I’m no angel.
But if most humans ARE a step below the angels—well, Roxanne and people like her are somewhere in between.
That challenged me in June 2016. How can we do more?
Now, Wonder Book’s relationship with Family Services has evolved to the point where Roxanne can come anytime and take all she wants. Since then has picked out thousands of books that went…to a lot for good places. Just how far I was unaware. In November 2017 Roxanne emailed:
My Facebook post today:
Another book blessings story: while the overall literacy rate in Trinidad tends to be pretty well, there are those who struggle there too. When a shipment of the (Frederick, Maryland) Book Angel’s books arrived there and some kids without books were given one to take home, one parent shared that his 7 year old daughter couldn’t read. A loving connection there responded by starting to learn to read group for her and three other children at her home every week. The kids are now reading with each other and writing about what they read. What an amazing village! ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ "
And a few days later:
One of the little girls in this pic is the 7 year old who couldn’t read before getting your books. She’s learning now!
Thank you for you,
So here we are at New Year’s 2018. And I have a resolution to do more.
Today I asked Roxanne to let me know some of the scope of what else she has done with the books.
"Hundreds of books have gone to the following programs:
Betty Ann Kranke Center, the ONLY domestic violence shelter for women with their children in Montgomery County, brightening the days of everyone from toddlers thru teens who often had to flee their homes with just the clothes on their backs.
The Landing: a program for teens who have suffered from academic and substance abuse issues, exposing them to the wonderful world of reading, thereby expanding their constructive options for leisure time activities.
Linkages to Learning: an in-school program that provides academic and other supports to children in need and their families, improving the academic success rate for the children. At their request, I separated out those books that are about American history, to help parents who are studying for their U.S. citizenship exam.
Early Head Start: starting children as young as 3 years old reading by providing their parents with books to read to them. So important since impoverished parents often have to opt for getting food and other bare physical necessities instead of books, leading to their children being at an academic disadvantage before they even start school compared to their middle class peers.
Thriving Germantown: FSIs newest program, which connects impoverished families whose children attend an elementary school in Germantown with service providers to address everything from adequate food, to mental and physical health services. This amazing program was featured in a recent issue of Bethesda Magazine. That article educated me that many of the families in this program live in the only remaining trailer park in Montgomery County, often with MULTIPLE other families PER TRAILER. painful to think about.
Outside of FSI:
In addition to sending books to an elementary school in Trinidad (where you may recall that many classes only had ONE book for the entire class!);
An orphanage in Kenya, where there are often NO books for children to read.
In addition to what Roxanne mentioned, Wonder Book has also provided books for our Outpatient Mental Health Clinic & Montgomery Station/Independence Psychiatric
The holiday book drive by Georgetown University, which took the books to impoverished schools in D.C.
FOUR (other) Title 1 Schools (Schools that have a large number of children receiving free lunches based on low family income.) 3 are elementary schools one is a middle school.
A Wider Circle: an organization in Montgomery County that helps homeless families furnish permanent housing placement."
Wendy Enderson—the Director of Family Services added:
"Rehabilitation Program, both for people to take home and also to "borrow" and bring back—like a library system. In addition, we’ve provided books to the Neighborhood Opportunity Network (NON), which is a partnership program between Family Services, Department of Health & Human Services and other nonprofits. The center, located within Family Services, provides individuals and families assistance is applying for emergency services, such as utilities, rent/eviction prevention, food, healthcare, foreclosure prevention, workforce development, etc. Books are provided to people utilizing the center, or to take home for a family member.
Thank you Chuck for everything!!!
Wow! We knew books can take you to great places. These folks are taking books to great places.
…And that is just the tip of the iceberg. Imagine what those folks do for shelter, clothing, transportation, training, health and psychological needs…
Family Services has helped support residents in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties and throughout Maryland for over 100 years. If you’d like to help this great organization, check out their Get Involved page here. They have opportunities to donate, partner, and volunteer—whatever best suits you. Follow their facebook page to get updates on their events and services.
Or you could help another way. Wonder Book offers low cost children’s books "by the box" on BooksByTheFoot.com.
Mixed age boxes are $24.99. These boxes weigh around 50 lb and are stuffed with 100+- books. Pick up at the warehouse or any retail store is free. Consider sponsoring a box or 10 for an organization near you. (link to children’s boxes)
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