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Altrusa Club of Statesboro distributes 18,000 childrens books with help of community
Program aims to improve quality of life for children
W altrusans donate books
Members of Altrusa Club of Statesboro, back row, pose with collegiate SOAR team members, front row, and proudly show off some of the almost-3500 children's books collected during the summer SOAR sessions to be donated to low-income elementary-aged children in the community throughout the school year. - photo by JULIE LAVENDER/Special

Much excitement has been generated in the past several months about Statesboro’s participation in the “America’s Best Communities” contest.

It’s big news for Statesboro to take part in a challenge that, according to Joe Clayton, CEO and President of DISH Network, one of the sponsors of the contest, “is a fantastic opportunity to share how small and rural towns are developing creative solutions for economic and cultural sustainability.” Clayton went on to say, “At its core, the contest gives voice to the best ways we can help communities across the country thrive for generations to come.”

And one of the “smaller” stories that help make Statesboro a wonderful place to live is a community-wide effort to enhance the reading abilities of many youngsters, aiming to improve their quality of life and that of future generations.

Five years ago, the Altrusa Club of Statesboro began a project to boost local literacy when member Ruth MacKinnon brought the idea to the club. Tapping into the already-established Backpack Buddy Program, in which a dozen local churches work together to provide weekend food for low-income students at nine elementary schools, MacKinnon and fellow members supplied one book per student every other month for backpack recipients in two schools the first year.

What started as a small project for the community service, non-profit organization has grown into an effort that now involves other civic groups, churches, individuals and, in the past two years, the f Georgia Southern University community.

For the past two summers, students attending the SOAR (Southern’s Orientation, Advisement, and Registration) sessions were asked to donate new or gently used children’s books. In the summer of 2014, almost 2000 books were donated, and this past summer, just shy of 3,500 books were collected.

Additionally, the East Georgia Regional Medical Center Hospital Auxiliary, Statesboro Library, various churches, Statesboro Service League, ASTRA (the college-level Altrusa Club), International Altrusa Foundation, Statesboro Rotary Club, Downtown Rotary Club of Statesboro, Kiwanis Club of Statesboro and other small groups and individuals have donated books, monetary gifts or grants towards the project.

MacKinnon is thrilled that her idea has turned into a community-wide effort to better the lives of those most in need.

“We feel that it is so important to start very young with the children so that they’ll learn to read and be successful in school and in their lives,” she said.

Currently, Altrusans give books once a month to backpack recipients of all nine elementary schools, three daycare centers and eight entire Pre-K classes in the community. The total of books distributed thus far in the five years numbers more than 18,000.

Teachers and students are loving the project, too.

MacKinnon treasures some of the letters she’s received from students.

Queidy wrote: “I like to read books and it can help me learn to read better. Thank you so much.”

Griffin wrote about the book he picked: “I chose this book because I am very interested in astronomy. Hopefully this book will help me pursue my career as an astronomer. I like how it doesn’t just talk about stars.”

Kimmley wrote that she planned to read her book, “Island of the Blue Dolphins,” over the summer and said, “I’m going to enjoy this book. Now I have something to do during my free time.”

From “Ramona and Beezus,” Jaylah wrote she learned that “family is family and you can’t take that away.”

The message LeKenya got from “Totally Tyra”: “Follow your dreams and never give up.”

And that’s just what the Altrusa Club of Statesboro is doing, following their dreams to make Statesboro an even better community, one little life at a time, one child’s story at a time.





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