Another Book Bank for Kids

Remember my post earlier this week about the Book Bank in Toronto? Here’s another one, this time in Portland, Oregon. In this case, the organization simply collects the books and distributes them to kids in the local Head Start program.

Each child gets a bag filled with 15 books, two or three of them new. The rest have been gently used. Before they go out the door, the books are sorted, then carefully examined by volunteers, who clean each book cover, erase scribbles and tape torn pages.

I find myself thinking this could surely be run out of someone’s garage. But apparently in only 18 months it’s turned into quite an operation.

Today, donations “show up from everywhere.” Local businesses and Scout troops hold book drives. Kids collect books at their birthday parties and drop them off. Stephanie Lisa Tara, a children’s book author in San Francisco, e-mailed Swope a couple weeks ago to ask if the book bank would be interested in some of her books. Sure, Swope said. Within days, 1,500 new books arrived at the book bank.

The book bank receives most of its funding from the Portland Schools Foundation and the Meyer Memorial Trust.

Swope and a pair of AmeriCorps workers staff the book bank, coordinating hundreds of volunteers who help prepare the books for donation and making sure the books get into the hands of needy children.

So far, the bank has handed out more than 50,000 books to nearly 4,000 children. This week, it made its first donation to an elementary school, giving more than 1,800 books to kindergartners and first-graders at Bridger Elementary School in Southeast Portland.

Obviously, there’s a need, and there’s people who want to help. All it takes is a few people willing to do the grunt work necessary to bring the two together.

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