Student steers her own ‘Stuff the Bus’ book drive

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.JuliaFoos_Web

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.

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