In my post-college life, I was casting around for activities to fill my spacious time. I wanted to try out some different volunteer activities to feel like I was doing something and contributing somehow, and I came across an opportunity at the Children’s Book Bank in Portland. I spent two hours cleaning up donated kids’ books that would be given to underprivileged children.

One statistic they mentioned explains the seriousness of such an endeavor: in middle income families, there are thirteen books per child at home. In low income families (like the ones that the organization works with), there is one book available per three hundred children.

That blew my mind. I had no idea access to books would be that restricted, and I couldn’t even begin to think of how long-lasting the effects of this discrepancy would be. Literacy is such a fundamental and foundational skill, and a lack of comfort with language expression and comprehension will likely cause lifelong setbacks. 

I was immediately struck by the mission of this organization. I had a great relationship with books as a child; I was one of those kids who was punished by being grounded from my books. I wanted to give other children the opportunity to explore other worlds and obtain skills that will help them throughout their life – especially when so many people are willing to donate their gently used children’s books. There is a ready supply – all that needs to be done is connecting the books with the kids in need! How could I not help?

I volunteered at five or six more book cleaning events. At the last one, I was talking with the coordinator, and she was explaining how the organization did not extend beyond Portland. 

Bam. It hit me. There I was, passionate about this organization and its work, and now here was an opportunity staring me in the face. In other cities, this need may not be currently addressed! This is the first time where I have seen a path that truly excites me and motivates me. It is not an area that I went to school for – I have a degree in science and work in research – but it is something I can imagine dedicating my life to.

Now, I am doing what I can to orient myself to this path. I have been trained to sort the books now and will be volunteering regularly. I plan to learn as much as I can about grant-writing, the structure of the organization, and which other cities might be good candidates for launch sites. 

Advice, guidance, support, questions…all are welcome.