Stuff the Bus with Books

Teenage book lover collects 25,000 books for needy kids

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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.

How do you collect, organize and distribute all of those books?

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.

What motivates you to devote so much energy into this?

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.

It's considered especially important for children to keep reading over the summer. How are you making a difference in their ability to continue reading?

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.

What do you get personally out of your volunteerism? And, what would you say to others looking for a volunteer opportunity?

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:

Julia Foos - Stuff the Bus with Books - WEWS Channel 5 Cleveland Story with Homa Bash

Julia Foos
Book Lover and Youth Philanthropist

Julia Foos donates to Stuff the Bus United Way of Greater Cleveland
Quick Facts –

High School:
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.

Future plans?
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.


Thank you for Stuffing the Bus with 12,500 books!

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!”

Literacy campaign promotes summer reading at Wraparound schools

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.

UW14_STBWB Logo_Vertical

“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

Inspire their next adventure through reading

Danielle Wright photo

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”

How do we get every child reading at grade level?

Margaret BernsteinGuest blogger, Margaret Bernstein is a local ambassador for literacy. She’s also the director of advocacy and community initiatives at WKYC. 

Teaching Cleveland’s children to love reading could solve a boatload of other problems.

Here’s why: Students who don’t read proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to drop out of school, studies show. And an estimated two-thirds of students who can’t read proficiently by the end of fourth grade will end up in jail or on welfare.

In other words, when youngsters struggle with their school books they lose interest, sometimes turning to crime, drugs and gangs. Which is why it’s so troubling that 42 percent of third-graders in Cleveland schools scored “below proficient” on the third grade reading assessment in 2013-2014.

So, how do we get every child in Northeast Ohio reading at grade level?

Continue reading “How do we get every child reading at grade level?”

Take me out to the ball game…to STUFF the BUS with Books

Nate Thompson
Nate Thompson

Guest blogger, Nate Thompson is a United Way of Greater Cleveland Young Leaders cabinet member and ticket operations manager with the Cleveland Indians Baseball Company.

It’s no secret Cleveland has the best sports fans in the nation. Season after season, we enthusiastically cheer on our hometown teams. Saturday, June 21 as the Cleveland Indians take on the Detroit Tigers, United Way of Greater Cleveland encourages you to root for our academic success!

United Way and the Indians are teaming up for Stuff the Bus with Books to beat summer learning loss for our community’s kids. Between 5 – 8 p.m. bring new or gently used children’s and young adult books to Progressive Field’s Rally Alley presented by RTA. The goal is to fill an RTA bus with books (so bring plenty!) and buy tickets to stay for the game.

The books will be distributed to Cleveland Public Library, Cuyahoga County Public Library and the independent local library systems. Then later this summer, the books will be available, free of charge for children to help grow (or start) their own personal libraries.

Can’t make it to the game, but still want to participate in Stuff the Bus with Books? We’ll be collecting books at the following drop-off locations through June 20:

  • Cleveland Public Library (Main, Memorial-Nottingham, Rice, West Park, City Hall branches)
  • Cuini & Panichi, Inc. 25201 Chagrin Boulevard, Suite 200, Beachwood
  • Euclid Public Library
  • Halex, 23901 Aurora Road, Bedford Heights
  • Heights Libraries
  • Kennemetal, 18105 Cleveland Parkway, Cleveland
  • Lakewood Public Library (both branches)
  • Loganberry Books, 13015 Larchmere Boulevard, Cleveland
  • NuLife Fitness Camp (Superior, Waterloo and Northfield locations)
  • United Way of Greater Cleveland, 1331 Euclid Ave, Cleveland
  • Rocky River Public Library
  • Shaker Heights Public Library
  • Silverman’s and Dunn Hardware LCC, 1450 Hayden, East Cleveland
  • Westlake Porter Public Library

Summer learning loss is the tendency for students to lose skills learned during the school year over summer vacation. By providing books at no cost, students stay academically engaged in the summer and grow (or start!) their own personal libraries.

Stuff the Bus with Books is part of United Way’s Day of Action. Annually, on June 21, United Ways around the world encourage their communities to LIVE UNITED to address a variety of challenges in education, income and health.

We hope to see you June 21 from 5 – 8 p.m. in Rally Alley to Stuff the Bus with Books and show your support for our community’s kids and the Cleveland Indians!

A special thanks to Stuff the Bus with Books partners:

Stuff the Bus with Books Partners