By Kimberly Harsch, Resource Development Coordinator
Last Saturday I was fortunate to be part of Goodwill’s first book sorting volunteer day in partnership with Read Early. Read Often. (RERO). Our goal was to get 500 gently used books in the hands of disadvantaged grade school children in Muskegon County. I was not prepared for the generous events that would unfold.
Goodwill President and CEO Jeanette Hoyer wants to help improve literacy rates for kids in our community where less than 40% of students reach adequate literacy level by third grade. Literacy directly affects education. And education is a pipeline to high wages, and a powerful tool in the fight to end poverty. Literacy improves when kids have books. And Goodwill has plenty to give.
We quickly found a strong partner in Allison Keessen at RERO who when asked if she could use free books responded, “Boy could we ever!”
We knew we needed to inspect, clean, and sort the books first. This takes manpower. RERO recruited 28 volunteers made up of high school students from “Reading Buddies United” which is comprised of area high school students from four schools: Orchard View, Oakridge, Mona Shores, and Muskegon. There were also volunteers from Rotary Interact, Pathfinders of Muskegon, and United Way of the Lakeshore.
On the day of book sorting at Goodwill’s headquarters in Muskegon, the positive energy was everywhere. Volunteers laughed, danced, and did the work while learning more about each other. Every once in an “Oh! I LOVED this book!” arose above the chatter and volunteers would rush to celebrate the title.
Two hours flew by in a flash. As we were packing up, I heard some of the kids talk about books that THEY were taking for their communities. Some were for book drives at school or for reading to grade schoolers. Nefertoria from Pathfinders of Muskegon took nearly 200 books to deliver on the streets. “I fill my trunk and when I open it, kids come running for books,” she said.
As we closed our first day together, Allison did a final book tally … 1,333 books were ready to go! These will be distributed wherever kids need them. Jeanette closed the day with a warm “thank you” for this group of generous people who truly are helping us “Change lives through the power of [their] work.”
If you would like to volunteer, or have locations that could use books for children contact Kim Harsch of Goodwill at (231) 722-7871, x1057.
For more information visit our website!