SOUTH FORSYTH — When a local middle school student learned there are kids in Forsyth County who do not own a single book at home, she set out to change that.
For her bat mitzvah project, a community and/or service-based effort Jewish teenagers complete, Kate Hall chose to hold a winter book drive for local students in need.
“There’s not a lot of need here, we thought, but when we were talking with the social worker at our middle school, she said you wouldn’t believe how many kids don’t have a book in their home,” said Michelle Hall, the Vickery Creek Middle School student’s mother.
“She knew when it was time for break, a lot of these families don’t have a car to go to the public library. And if it’s at night, and you just want to pick up a book to read, they can’t go to the school to check anything out.”
Hall set up bins in her middle school and at Kelly Mill and Vickery Creek elementary schools. The former Kelly Mill student also put out a drop box in the clubhouse at Fieldstone subdivision, where she lives. She also designed her own flyers and made videos to show to teachers.
“She loves to read. She just wanted to be able to share that joy with everyone else,” her mother said.
The book drive lasted two weeks.
“The goal was 1,000 books,” her mother said. “She thought she’d be lucky to get a couple hundred. We counted 2,295.”
Hall logged every book by hand and divided them by grade level. That doesn’t include the activity books that were not individually logged.
“I always get a little emotional when I think about the good she does,” her mother said. “It touches you in a place that you can’t even describe. That your daughter is doing something to help others.
“I’m proud of the way she took charge of it. She had the initiative and knew it was something she wanted to do. She reached out to adults and emailed all of the principals at the schools to ask to set the bins up.”
Melissa Young, a social worker for several schools in the west Forsyth area, distributed the books last week.
“There are 10 social workers in the county. We knew the Title I schools may need more, so we distributed them [there] and kept some in the libraries and also gave some to specific students,” Young said.
Books also went to kids who may be struggling academically, or who may be learning English as a second language, and even to several who lost their homes to fires this year.
“At Midway [Elementary School], we have parent meetings, so we will have them there for parents to take,” Young said.
One of Young’s co-workers took some books to mobile home parks in the county and simply opened the back of her car to let children pick what they wanted.
“It started with three or four kids, and after five minutes there were 20 of them,” Young said. “To us, it’s more about there’s a need, but if you could see the look on the kids’ faces. If you give them a book it’s like giving them an iPad because they don’t have books.”
Young said she was impressed with Hall for her initiative and time she spent on the project. She said the young teen wants to do another drive this summer.
“I wish she could see how much joy she brought to the kids’ faces,” she said. “The fortunate part of my job is to see how blessed they feel just because of a book.”