A `Priceless’ Reaction to a Bunch of Books

Apr 9, 2014

In honor of National Volunteer Week, April 6-12, USA Weekend and Points of Light are recongizing the 2013 Make A Difference Day honorees, who will be celebrated in Washington, D.C., on April 10. Here we tell the story about volunteers across the country making sure kids have books to read.

assistance_league.jpg An Assistance League volunteer from San Mateo County,
Calif., bonds with a child over a donated book.

After rounding up an amazing 113,000 books for at-risk children on their first Make A Difference Day in 2012, the women of the Assistance League surprised themselves by nearly copying that success last October: 2,666 members led 93 of the national service organization's 120 communities in donating 103,036 books to foster programs, schools, shelters, libraries and Boys & Girls Clubs.

"For many of these kids, it may be the only book they own or the only birthday gift they get," says Kathy Youngman, chairman of the Assistance League's Make A Difference Day book drive. "So this really is a national event with local impact."

The San Antonio, Texas, chapter alone gave 14,400 books; Albuquerque, N.M., 5,500. In suburban Detroit, "a retired teacher who'd been collecting books her students had loved decided Make A Difference Day was the perfect time to donate all 868," says Youngman.

The reaction of book-hungry children was "priceless," says Southern Utah chapter president Jillene Lander. When her chapter delivered 53 titles to a third-grade classroom at La Verkin Elementary School, where more than half of students live below the poverty line, "kids immediately paired off and started reading to each other. One boy grabbed `Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ and said, 'I've been waiting my whole life to read this!' He just lit up."

Look for the 2014 book drive to beat 2012's numbers: "Since we won the Make A Difference Day Award last year, chapters have been getting more attention and donors in their communities," says Youngman. "I'm sure we'll be close to 100 percent of our chapters participating next time."

Check out the other Make A Difference Day honorees at www.makeadifferenceday.com/winners.