Books From Friends

Books from Friends encourages reading by providing new and gently used books to area children in need.

How did this project come about?

It all started with Make a Difference Day, the largest national day of volunteering sponsored annually by USA Today Weekend Magazine. In 2011, National Assistance League asked that all chapters participate in this special day by collecting children’s books and holding a special event. Due to the success of that event and those that followed, Assistance League of St. Louis decided to adopt Books from Friends as a year-round pilot project in 2016.

What was accomplished in 2016-17?

Nearly 4,000 books were distributed to 9 organizations and schools in 2016-2017.  Book fairs were held at St. Louis the King and Froebel Schools and books were provided to International Institute, Lift for Life Academy, Buddy Bags, Circle of Concern, Little Libraries, Let’s Start and Midtown Charities. Volunteers were instrumental in building a library for Boys Hope/Girls Hope and are filling the shelves of the DePaul USA-STL new apartment unit for young adults who have been homeless. Additionally, Assistance League volunteers prepared and shared a meal with Boys Hope/Girls Hope students.

What’s next?

Assistance League volunteers look forward to sharing the joy of reading and igniting the power of continuous learning by providing more books than ever to children in need. The story below is one example of how this program is growing.

Filling Hungry Bellies and Hungry Minds

Imagine… come home one late afternoon and find three young children sitting on the front stoop of your home.  You don’t know them. What would you do?  What would you think?  As reported by the St. Louis REVIEW (1-11-18), this did happen to Kim Davis (pictured left with Barb Doering) in the Ville neighborhood of North St. Louis. A bit startled in finding the three of them firmly planted on her front step, Kim asked if she could help.  The children said they needed something to eat and they offered to do some work to earn money to buy food.  As Kim, a former nurse and a mother of four and grandmother of four listened to their concerns, she recalled, “My heart was melting. How could I help them?"

Kim did manage to satisfy their immediate hunger needs that day from her own kitchen.  But she was well aware that there were many others who would be hungry as they were often left to fend for themselves in a house with little food while their parents were working. With the help of many others Kim collected fresh produce, snacks and books to be part of a backpack-giveaway sponsored by the Ville Collaborative.  As this program grew, Kim shared her ideas with Steve Hutchison of Revitalizatiion 2000, an organization that owns the Claver House, a resident volunteer community in the Ville neighborhood.  Together they started Project Read and Feed a program that welcomed neighborhood children to Claver House for a bite to eat and fun activities to stimulate their minds. 

After reading the article in the St. Louis REVIEW, members Susan Peters and Barb Doering saw a real potential for Assistance League being able to help!  After encouraging words from president Suzanne Pratl, Barb Doering, chairman of Books from Friends along with Mary Belgeri, chairman of Assistance League Outreach, Susan Long and Dawn Thomas arranged to spend time at Claver House. There they met with Kim Davis and Steve Hutchison to better understand Project Read and Feed and the operation of Claver House.

After their visit, Barb Doering said this, “We saw and heard about basic unfulfilled needs of many of the neighborhood families.  But we were impressed with what the Claver House is accomplishing through Project Read and Feed in fulfilling many of these needs!  And we were excited as we were sure Assistance League could help them make a difference!” 

On February 23, Kim Davis and Steve Hutchison paid a visit to Assistance League headquarters.  They returned to Claver House with a truck load of books provided through Books From Friends and cleaning supplies, hygiene products and boxes of food provided by Assistance League Outreach. 

Through Read and Feed, this Ville neighborhood is attempting to provide a sense of community and become an anchor for its residents.  Assistance League, by helping to fill the hungry bellies and feed the hungry minds is playing a small part in this happening and in the revitalization of this neighborhood.

--Contributed by Jeanne Belle, Marketing Committee

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Greatest thanks for supplying us with gas cards for our veterans in need. This will be a great asset to our program, helping to give a "hand up" to those who temporarily need assistance with transportation.
-from St. Patrick's Center