In June 2002, Carbon Hill High School was destroyed by a demoralizing fire, which left the small community reeling. Just as they were recovering, another tragedy struck their educational structure when a tornado damaged the elementary and junior high schools that November, leaving Carbon Hill with very little space and resources to educate their students. Their need was great and their sadness palpable.
Crystal Ingle, known for her giving spirit and extensive volunteer work, wanted to help. So, after visiting the site and talking with students and teachers, she decided to concentrate on an area close to her heart. With an intense interest in education and literacy, Crystal focused on restocking the libraries of all three schools, establishing the Carbon Hill Library Replenishing Book Drive in an effort to rebuild a part of what was lost.
Crystal was tireless, visiting over a dozen schools and participating in hundreds of events to share her mission and to encourage students and adults of all ages and all backgrounds to come together for a great cause. She wrote letters to local and state representatives and set up boxes in different locations throughout Walker County before extending the drive into the surrounding counties, eventually taking the effort statewide. A school in Florida even heard of Crystal’s attempt to help Carbon Hill, and after getting in touch with her, they worked together to send books toward her goal. In less than a year, over 10,000 books had been donated, worth approximately $50,000, and the schools were well on their way to having full libraries once again.
In an attempt to further include students in the drive’s goal, she also handed out book tags to allow those who donated books to feel like a part of the process. She wanted them to know and to be able to see what they were doing and to realize a part of them would go with the books.
In the meantime, Crystal was trying to continue her own education. As a full-time student at the University of North Alabama, she was busy balancing her volunteer work and her other responsibilities, using her free time, including her Christmas break, visiting local schools to read and talk with the children and to encourage participation in the book drive. She stressed the importance of literacy and community involvement, even to the younger students. She encouraged them all to continue their volunteer efforts beyond the book drive, just as she had been doing for years and has continued to do.
Although Crystal was the spokesperson for the drive, spearheading the effort and working diligently to see it succeed, she was always quick to appreciate everyone who played a part in the endeavor, making certain they realized what a difference they were making in the lives of those affected by such tragedy. By bringing together businesses, schools, and individuals in a common goal, she was not only replenishing the libraries but also helping to rebuild a broken community.