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Altrusa Statesboro donates books to children in need
W Altrusa
Altrusa Statesboro President Melanie Mosley and member Ruth MacKinnon hold some of the books that will be given to low-income children as part of their literacy project, which places books in the hands of 5,000 local children each year. - photo by Jessica Lavender/Special

Dog wash
What: Altrusa Statesboro’s first community dog wash

When: Saturday, April 12, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Where: Pittman Park United Methodist Church parking lot, 1102 Fair Road

Cost: $7 for basic wash, additional $3 for flea shampoo and ear cleaning (cash only). Proceeds benefit Altrusa’s Books for Backpack Buddies program.

More information: Contact Marilyn Hale at to learn more.

In just four years, the Altrusa Statesboro has distributed 12,000 books to local children who often have no access to books at home.

In fact, according to a study by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement, approximately 61 percent of low-income families in Georgia do not have a single piece of reading material suitable for a child in the home.

Altrusa member Ruth MacKinnon hopes to change that statistic, one book and one child at a time.

Four years ago, during an Altrusa committee meeting, MacKinnon and other members were brainstorming literacy ideas for the county. Altrusa, a community service, nonprofit organization that strives to make local communities better through leadership, partnership and service, is an international group whose main focus is literacy, though each club chooses its own local service projects.

MacKinnon brainstormed an idea to couple books with an already-established program in Bulloch County.
“What if we gave books to children who get backpacks?” she asked.

Tapping into the Backpack Buddy Program, in which 12 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.

The program was so successful and well-received that Altrusans added all of the elementary schools the next year, donating books every other month. For the last two years, the club has been able to give books to recipient children once a month. All public elementary schools and two day-care programs, 5,000 children per year, are served.

MacKinnon has worked diligently, seeking donations and grants and carrying out various fund-raisers. The Statesboro Regional Library, Statesboro Service League, various churches, ASTRA (the college-level Altrusa Club), International Altrusa Foundation, Statesboro Rotary Club, Downtown Statesboro Rotary Club, Statesboro Kiwanis Club, and other small groups and individuals have assisted with monetary gifts, grants or book donations towards the project.

The book project also qualifies to purchase new books from for only the cost of shipping. That organization assists children below the poverty line with much-needed reading material. 

MacKinnon shared some of the startling literacy statistics at a recent Altrusa Club meeting. One-third of Georgia’s children come to school unprepared; only 29 percent of Georgia fourth-graders read at or above proficiency; one in four adults in Georgia operate at a low literacy level; and Georgia has the nation’s third highest rate of high-school dropouts.

These frightening statistics keep MacKinnon and other members of the club working diligently to get books in the hands of children in need. After the books are collected or purchased, MacKinnon carefully sorts them by reading level for distribution. Club members deliver the books to the various schools to be placed in backpacks.

“It takes a village for this project,” shared one member in reference to the work of the Altrusans and the support from the community.

MacKinnon is also grateful for help from the school systems.
“Administrators, counselors and teachers have been very supportive and appreciative of the program,” MacKinnon said.

A new benefit to the program will take place this summer, when Georgia Southern University SOAR (Southern’s Orientation, Advisement and Registration) students – freshmen and transfer students who come to the university for orientation – will donate books for their orientation service project.

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