Julia Foos transformed her family’s basement into a warehouse to organize the thousands of books she donates to others.
A voracious passion for reading has inspired a local teenager to accomplish an astounding feat of community service that is enriching the lives of underprivileged children.
Julia Foos, a 17-year-old high school student, has single-handedly collected and donated more than 25,000 new and gently used books to kids throughout Northeast Ohio.
She has directed 10,000 of those books to United Way of Greater Cleveland’s Stuff The Bus initiative.
We sat down with Julia to learn more about what motivates her to devote so much effort to help others.
I collect new and gently used books mostly from businesses. I originally collected them just from family and family friends, but it’s grown over the years, a lot of it through word-of-mouth. Now, I get random messages on Facebook, ‘do you still need books for me to donate, I can donate them’. Usually I sort them by age and reading level. I have the board books for the little kids and picture books, and small chapter books and bigger chapter books. And then usually I make my parents help me carry the giant boxes out to the car (laughing). And the entire operation is located in the basement of our home. It’s worked for us.
I’ve always been reading; it’s always something that I’ve done. Actually, when I was little the only way my parents could punish me was to ground me from reading on the car ride home. Because that was the only punishment I would listen to. So, reading’s always been something I’ve just been really, really passionate about and I hope I can give other kids the opportunity to be passionate about it too, especially if they don’t have access to books. I can’t imagine what my childhood would have been like without access to a library.
For me personally, when I’m in school I don’t have a ton of time to read. Not as much as I like because I have so much work to do. Summer is the time I actually tend to catch up on my reading. I like giving more kids that option, too, because I know most kids during the school year are focused on the books they have to read for school and maybe don’t get as much time to read for pleasure. And I think that’s really important to me—that I get to read what I want whenever I want. I know when I read during the summer, I may not be reading about school subjects, but I’m still learning about new things and gaining new ideas, and I hope I can pass that along to other kids.
It just makes me feel really good to give kids the opportunity to read and learn, because I know that my life would have been very different if I hadn’t had those opportunities. Mentally, it really makes me feel good and rewarded. I would encourage anybody to find something they’re passionate about and see what kind of impact they can make. It’s amazing what one person can do.
Julia was recently featured on News Channel 5 Cleveland (WEWS)
Watch her story here:
Book Lover and Youth Philanthropist
Quick Facts –
Hathaway Brown School
Lives with her parents, Heather and Kevin, a sister, Ava, and dogs Pippa and Tacy in Avon Lake.
How much does she love books?
When Julia was 7-years-old, her library card was declined because she was over the 75-book limit.
Why did she start a book drive?
Was shocked, then inspired, after reading an article about how many kids in Cleveland don’t have access to books at home. Also hopes her efforts will eventually help reduce the city’s 61 percent adult illiteracy rate.
Who do you donate them to?
United Way of Greater Cleveland, Cleveland Kids’ Book Bank, and others.
(besides reading a lot) Crafts, including knitting and sewing, and entertaining her dogs.
Heading off to college in the fall, where she intends to major in English and/or pursue a path in pre-med. She hopes to collect an additional 10,000 books before classes start.
By Carissa Woytach, United Way of Greater Cleveland Staff Writer
The third annual “Stuff the Bus with Books” campaign raised more than 12,500 books for United Way of Greater Cleveland to distribute to area students, with more than 2,500 coming from an area high school student. Julia Foos and her parents ran their own book drive, donating the proceeds to the “Stuff the Bus” campaign.
Nearly 50 companies and individuals started compiling the collection in early April, which will be distributed to 12 CMSD schools, five Club Connect schools, and Cleveland Public Library.
Barely out of her freshman year at Hathaway Brown in Shaker Heights, Julia Foos and her parents collected 2,536 books through her “Books Offer Opportunities for Kids” (BOOK) project.
“I read a statistic that said only one in 300 kids in Cleveland have books to read,” she said. “I don’t think I could have grown up without books and books are an important part of childhood, so I thought some kids in Cleveland really need books and I should probably help them out.”
Word of mouth
Originally, Foos told her family members about the drive, but support grew as word spread. Julia’s mother collected books from fellow teachers at North Olmsted City Schools, Foos said. This was the Foos family’s second book drive, having completed one during the 2015 Christmas season.
“I did a drive in December for my Christmas project,” Foos said. “Our family does something every Christmas where we try to help out people who maybe don’t have as much as we do.
“I got about 500 then, and [this time] I told some of the teachers [at her mother’s school] and then they told other teachers, and they told other teachers, so it just spread by word of mouth.”
Foos and her father, Kevin, dropped their boxes of books at Westlake Porter Public Library, June 15, which was the closest “Stuff the Bus” collection point to her. The books were picked up with the rest of the donations and held until distribution. Foos said she hopes to continue the project and collect more books for students at Cleveland schools.
Shanette Buford-Brazzell, special events manager at United Way of Greater Cleveland, was in charge of organizing the “Stuff the Bus” event, in partnership with the Cleveland Indians, Depend, Nationwide, RTA and UPS. She was also who Julia Foos reached out to to be able to hold her own book drive.
“She heard about United Way’s Stuff the Bus and had decided to hold a book drive for us,” Buford-Brazzell, said. “Her book drive was successful and she donated her books.”
Preventing ‘summer slide’
The United Way book drive also raised an estimated $1,595 in its “Inspire Their Next Adventure” digital campaign. This money will be used to purchase new books in honor of the individuals who donated to the campaign, Buford-Brazzell said.
“The books are going to go to 12 CMSD schools to be part of their summer learning program, our [five] club connect schools, and Cleveland Public Library Main Branch, Memorial-Nottingham, Fleet and Westpark branch,” she said. “[The CPL branches] participated as collection points and asked us to be recipients of the book distribution.
This book drive is meant to help prevent “summer slide,” which is when students lose one to three months of the academic progress they have made during the summer, putting them further behind at the beginning of next school year, According to Dr. Harris Cooper, a Duke University psychology and neuroscience professor.
The books were picked up from collection sites June 16 by three teams from UPS, who partnered with United Way of Greater Cleveland. They were then taken to Nationwide Insurance’s warehouse, where they were sorted by grade level by Nationwide Insurance employees.
The week of June 27, the books will be delivered. Books collected will go to students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grades.
Thank you for helping local kids Inspire Their Adventure all summer!
The Greater Cleveland community jumped on board again; nearly 45 companies and organizations collected books to help kids read all summer long for the third annual Stuff the Bus with Books campaign. UPS picked up donated books from 40 locations and delivered the books to Nationwide, whose employees volunteered to sort and box all of the books.
Stuff the Bus with Books is part of the national United Way Day of Action. Once again this year, Cleveland Indians fans donated a book to the Stuff the Bus with Books campaign, upon entry as the Indians took on the Chicago White Sox. Continue reading “Thank you for Stuffing the Bus with 12,500 books!”
By Carissa Woytach, United Way of Greater Cleveland Staff Writer
Students may forget one to three months of learning during summer vacation, according to Dr. Harris Cooper, a Duke University psychology and neuroscience professor and expert in summer learning.
“Think of it this way — if summer vacation equals three months of learning lost, then from first to sixth grade, a student can lose up to 18 months of their skills,” wrote Julia Boxler, who leads youth programs at all 27 branches of Cuyahoga County Public Library, in a recent blog.
United Way of Greater Cleveland’s summer literacy campaign, including the “Stuff the Bus with Books” drive, strives to provide CMSD students with grade-appropriate reading material to curb learning loss during the break.
Funded in part with a grant provided by United Way Worldwide with money that it received from Red Nose Day, the first element of the strategy was a literacy awareness campaign for parents. The second was the Summer Learning Kick-Off and book drive.
The Summer Learning Kick-off took place May 19 at five CMSD Wraparound schools — Almira, Case, Harvey Rice, Patrick Henry and Walton. United Way partners with CMSD for the Wraparound initiative, which works to resolve poverty problems that can affect children’s academic performance. Each school’s site coordinator connects students and their families with individualized social, medical and community services.
According to Andrew Katusin, the education manager at United Way of Greater Cleveland, the events were staffed by volunteers from University Hospitals. The programs included fresh produce from Dave’s Market, raffles and career bingo — which invited older students to ask UH volunteers about their work. At Harvey Rice, the target school because of its proximity to UH’s main campus, there was also a DJ and Clifford the Big Red Dog.
Volunteers distributed 4,000 books to approximately 1,800 students in literacy packs, which included two books, a coloring or puzzle book and United Way of Greater Cleveland’s 2-1-1 Youth Pages.
“Stuff the Bus with Books” continues the literacy initiative by collecting donated books at locations throughout the city. It challenges companies to sponsor the drive or be a collection point.
In partnership with the Cleveland Indians, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, UPS, Nationwide and GE, collected books will be given to students at CMSD schools, three suburban schools — John Muir in Parma, John Dewey in Warrensville Heights and John F. Kennedy in Maple Heights — and local libraries participating in summer learning programs.
The drive ends with an event to fill an RTA bus with the collected books before the Indians game, Saturday, June 18 at Progressive Field.
For more information or to volunteer, visit https://www.unitedwaycleveland.org/stuffthebus/
Guest blogger, Julia Boxler leads youth programs at all 27 branches of Cuyahoga County Public Library (CCPL). Boxler coordinates programming for special needs and struggling readers, homework centers and summer reading and summer camps. She has established best practices for three major age ranges of youth services within CCPL.
Practice makes perfect, but what happens when we get out of practice? Whether it’s sports, reading or math, without practice your skills can become rusty. You may even end up needing to learn the skill all over again.
In summer, approximately half of all students essentially “take a break” from learning and as a result, lose many skills they learned during the school year, called learning loss or “summer slide.”
By Andrew Katusin, Education Program Associate, United Way of Greater Cleveland
In Greater Cleveland, we come together to support collective success, especially for our children. That’s just who we are.
The success of future generations, and our larger community, is directly tied to quality education beginning with the development of one major skill: reading. Our community continues to rally behind its children to provide support and resources needed for success. Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD), United Way of Greater Cleveland, foundations and other local nonprofit organizations understand the importance and joined together to create a network to help our children become strong readers. Continue reading “Cleveland’s Success depends on the Next Generation”
On May 19, United Way of Greater Cleveland hosted summer learning kickoff events at five Cleveland Metropolitan School District schools. Each event promoted summer learning with literacy-themed raffles, giveaways, prizes and an opportunity to sign up for summer reading programs at neighborhood libraries. Literacy Explosions were hosted at Harvey Rice, Patrick Henry, Almira, Walton and Case elementary schools.
“Research shows students are susceptible to losing a large portion of what they’ve learned throughout the school year once summer break hits,” says United Way Vice President of Community Impact Traci Jadlos. “Our goal is to keep our community’s kids engaged in summer learning by combining academics with fun, hands-on learning experiences.”
Approximately 150 University Hospitals staff members volunteered at the summer learning kickoffs to distribute literacy kits and engage with students. The event was the inaugural volunteer opportunity for UH150 – a yearlong celebration of University Hospital’s 150th anniversary.
“We are extremely proud of our relationship with United Way and are excited to partner with them for this campaign,” said Steven Standley, UH chief administrative officer. “We are celebrating giving back to the community with our 150th and collaboration with United Way is a natural fit as we both have helped shape Cleveland’s charitable landscape.”
The Cleveland Public Library also participated in the summer learning kickoff. Librarians were on site to host storytelling sessions and encourage students to sign up for library cards and the annual summer reading program.
Dave’s Supermarket provided more than 3,600 pieces of fresh produce to all five schools to serve as healthy, kid-friendly snacks for the event.
“United Way hosted these fun-filled summer learning kickoffs to remind more than 1,700 local students to continue reading and learning during their vacation,” said Jadlos.
Funding for United Way of Greater Cleveland’s literacy campaign, which includes the summer learning kickoffs, was provided by Red Nose Day USA – a $23 million campaign to address children’s issues in the United States and 14 other countries.
By Danielle Wright, Engagement Center Associate, United Way of Greater Cleveland
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you will go.”
— Dr. Seuss
I’m a bit of an education nut. There are times I think I should have been an elementary school teacher, and other times I dream of creating programs that enhance our educational system. Education has always been very important in my family. I remember my brother’s first day of school I stood at the bus stop and cried because I wanted to go to school as well. I was inconsolable, not understanding why, at three years old, I was not allowed to go to school. Continue reading “Inspire their next adventure through reading”
Mariam Moussa is an immigrant and mother of two who moved to Cleveland from Egypt. Her oldest child, a son, Kirollos is in third grade and the youngest, Karin, is a second grader. When the Moussas moved to Cleveland, the family didn’t speak or read English. Kirollos was entering kindergarten and Karin was young enough to start incorporating the English language in her speech.
The Journey to CLE
The Moussas moved to Cleveland the summer before Kirollos was to enter kindergarten. Navigating a new community and language barriers, Mariam used an interpreter to get him registered for school and also to get involved in language classes at church as well as programs and services offered in the community. Continue reading “When English is a Second Language”