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

Family:
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.

Hobbies:
(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.

 

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