Ainsleigh, who will enter eighth grade this fall, is quick to express gratitude for her access to books.
“Some kids don’t get the opportunity to get an education,” she says. “I feel very lucky to go to the school I do and to be able to read and go to the library.”
When Ainsleigh’s father received an email from United Way of Greater Cleveland regarding an opportunity to “Stuff the Bus” with books, he knew the middle child of his five daughters would be inspired.
“Ainsleigh was looking for a summer service project, and I thought Stuff the Bus was perfect for her. It was a quick connection; United Way, books, and kids,” he says. “My wife and I have been United Way donors since 1997. United Way is international, but monies taken in here stay in the local community. And such a high percentage of what is donated to United Way actually gets to the people who need it.”
After seeing the United Way email, Ainsleigh went to her parish pastor and asked for permission to place a book collection bin in the church. A notice was placed in the church bulletin, she made signs for the bin, and within weeks, the collection was overflowing and books were being stacked on the floor. Ainsleigh’s efforts garnered nearly 250 books, and her family donated new ones as well.
“I’ve always had the privilege of reading and I wanted other kids to have that privilege, too,” Ainsleigh says. “It was really satisfying to collect the books. It made me feel good to see it fill up and to know we were helping.”
While the ratio of books to children in middle-income neighborhoods is 13 books to one child, the ratio in low-income neighborhoods is one book to 300 children. United Way of Greater Cleveland led the drive to “Stuff the Bus with Books,” Sunday, June 21, at Progressive Field. Volunteers helped collect and sort more than 10,000 books from dozens of locations, which were then distributed to 23 local schools. Partners included the Cleveland Indians, RTA, UPS and Nationwide, and sponsors Hartland and WKYC.
UPS picked up from more than 30 collection points and delivered the books to Nationwide, whose employees volunteered to sort and box them. Once the books were sorted by grade level they were distributed to local schools and United Way’s summer programs for distribution to the kids. Each kid will receive at least one, and maybe two books.
“The people in our parish are so generous. I love to volunteer and will help whenever I can,” Ainsleigh says.