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Seeking funds to purchase a new vehicle, The Bookmobile — Reading to Go Places is inviting the community to help write the nonprofit’s next chapter. Kicking off Oct. 31, the drive is striving to generate $75,000.
“After receiving the bad news about the original Bookmobile, the board of directors authorized a fundraising drive as we explore vehicle options,” said Valerie Gilreath, president of The Bookmobile’s board of directors. “We know any long-term solution will involve more money than what we have on hand.
“We titled it ‘Join the Story,’ because these donations are writing the next chapter of the program. … The funds will go toward a replacement vehicle and the expanded program options we expect will be possible as a result.”
Noting her first reaction to this latest turn of events to be “disbelief,” Gilreath shared The Bookmobile vehicle is the face of the program.
“When Joe Sutton, Road Department director for Bartow County, told me he ‘couldn’t put it back on the road,’ I thought he was exaggerating,” she said. “We had been driving it just days before. What could possibly be so bad? The things I was used to worrying about, such as the engine, transmission and tires, were fine. We had taken it in for routine maintenance.
“In the course of performing that maintenance, the crew found serious structural issues and deemed it unsafe to drive. Once I understood the vehicle was truly done — off the road — I cried. I was devastated. The Bookmobile vehicle is the program to a great degree. The novelty of the vehicle, a library inside a big truck, is what draws children in and gets them excited and that helps us get them excited about reading.”
Encouraging supporters “to leave your mark,” the fundraising campaign’s brochure features various sponsorship levels. While any donation amount is appreciated, some sponsorships will enable the contributors to feature their logo or message on a book spine decorating the new vehicle’s exterior.
“The Bookmobile began in July 2017,” Gilreath said. “Kim Dennis and I saw a need for a program to augment services provided by the schools and the local government to help families break the cycle of generational poverty. Education is the key to interrupting that cycle, and early reading is the surest way to promote academic success.
“Getting books into the hands of children before they start school and teaching and encouraging parents to read to their pre-school age children builds the language and literacy skills kids need to be ready for school and to excel once they get there. Then keeping kids reading for pleasure as they grow maintains that success and spurs them toward graduation.”
Through the years, The Bookmobile has expanded its services, broadening its reach outside of south Bartow.
“Initially, the program was focused in south Bartow, but it has evolved to include more geographic areas of Bartow County,” Gilreath said. “Also, in addition to going into neighborhoods, we have added visits to childcare facilities to promote early reading among the children there.
“Since July of 2017, we have issued 428 Bookmobile library cards; checked out 1,861 books from the mobile library; given away 5,277 books to encourage families to build home libraries; established two Little Free Libraries at the Allatoona Resource Center and Emerson City Hall; and made over 100 visits throughout Bartow County.”
As the program director for The Bookmobile, Dennis knows firsthand how important the outreach effort is to those it serves.
“I chose to volunteer with the Bookmobile because I believe service of others is one of the greatest gifts we have to offer,” Dennis said. “I am grateful that I grew up in a household with amazing parents who instilled a love of reading, learning and educational attainment as a path to future success and happiness in life.
“Before working in the business world for 20 years, I taught high school, so working with children is one of my passions,” she said, adding she enjoys getting to know the kids and families who frequent The Bookmobile. “One of my favorite joys is when a child is surprised and grateful for the free book for their home library. I have seen many kids clutch these books to their hearts and smile.  I also enjoy when parents share that because of checking out and reading books from The Bookmobile, their children now have a love of reading.”
For more information about The Bookmobile fundraiser, visit http://readingtogoplaces.org/fundraiser.