While bad weather has stalled “The Book People” effort locally, grants and donations insured plenty of volumes for local children.
Spokesperson Susan Fairhurst recently said The Book People received grants from Twin County Community Foundation and the Holston Conference of The United Methodist Church. This was followed by The Molina Foundation donating 6,000-plus books. Fairhurst, no stranger to working on Molina grants, had applied for one with 4-H and another with Rooftop of Galax. TheFoundation emailed, asking her to register with them to be notified of available grants.
“The Molina Foundations has been so easy to deal with. Jennifer Chappell was my point of contact and she did everything she could to up the number of books we got. They bent over backwards to help us. So, one day this lady Jennifer Chapell, who is the most amazing women ever, emailed me to say they had a grant for Pre-K to First,” said Fairhurst. “I didn’t want those because we have enough of those books. I emailed her back and said, ‘Any chance you have any high school books? That’s what I really need.’ She wrote me back and said, ‘Yeah, I can send 2,000.’ I thought, ‘Wow, that would be fabulous.’ She said tell me a little bit about your program. I emailed her back and she said, ‘I can send you 6,000.’”
Fairhurst said the group didn’t “pay a penny for the books” but did pay for shipping. She said the Foundation has been “really, really awesome to deal with.” She estimated the Book People have distributed at least 20,000 books in Carroll County in the three years of operation, with 3,000 books given out between the high school and middle school.
“The success has really surprised me. I mean we started when Robert (First United Methodist Church, Hillsville Pastor Robert Smith) told me in response to me emailing him and saying Carroll County was the poorest county in Virginia and we need to do something. It’s not anymore, thank God, but Robert said we need to to do something. How about getting a book to every child in Carroll County,” Fairhurst said. “Without even thinking, I said, ‘Yeah. I’ll do that.’ I met with him. We came up with a name for the program and I thought ‘Great, we have a name but no books.’ We put out a few flyers and sure enough when we got enough we went to Oakland Elementary. We were so nervous. We didn’t know if we had enough books. We didn’t know how to do it. We just did it.”
She says the first year they got through mostly with used books. The grants and a $10,000 donaton by former Virginia Tech football coach Frank Beamer helped them get more new books. This year, 98 percent are new books to kids and the remainder are “gently read.”
They go to seven elementary schools in Carroll, one in Galax, Carroll County Middle and CCHS. They also donate to Rooftop, DSS and other organizations.
The format has remained the same. Typically, they usually set up in a school library. Two or three stories are read to each grade and then they are allowed to go and pick out the books (Pre-K through 7). In the middle or high school, books are put in the librarys or in the halls and students can pick them out.
“We had a bit of a backup this year because of the weather. Some of the schools are just getting done now but they’re getting done. I think I have everyone scheduled now but the high school. It’s made it hard for us to go. We didn’t have to cancel anything but we couldn’t schedule anything. Schools have had so many days out they need to catch up,” said Fairhurst.
The Molina Foundation is a national nonprofit organization focused on reducing disparities in access to education and health. Since 2004, The Molina Foundation has worked with more than 2,500 organizations and schools towards this end, donating over 4 million books and hosting workshops and programs for educators and families. The Molina Foundation works hand-in-hand with community-based organizations in vulnerable communities with a focus on working with organizations making a measurable impact in the lives of children and families.
David Broyles may be reached at 276-779-4013 or on Twitter@CarrollNewsDave.