Mary Kaye Gubenski received a message from a friend recently. Her friend had seen something that she knew would be of great interest. It was a Facebook post about the Bazillion Book Drive, an initiative of the North Alabama Conference to get new books into the hands of children living in poverty. It just so happens that Gubenski has a passion for that very issue. As coordinator of the Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Learning Center, she works with children in one of the poorest areas of Birmingham.
In her application to receive new books, Gubenski wrote that "So many of the children want to take home the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. At this point, since they all want them, I have to say 'no' so that they are available for all the children to read." The Bazillion Book Drive team decided to change that.
Reaching out through social media and a few emails, the Central and South Central Districts easily obtained 30 copies of the first book in the Wimpy Kid series, with plans to continue to collect more books until 30 of each title in the ten-book series is delivered to the center. The books will be sent home for the children to keep. Statistics show that in low-income areas, few homes contain age-appropriate books for children.
"We try to give the children books to take home on an ongoing basis," Gubenski said. The center's shelves are filled with used books donated to the program. She reports that the children were excited to receive a book of their own. "The children were very happy to receive brand new books. One little girl asked to have one for every child in her family!"
The Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Learning Center has provided reading and homework help to more than 50 children since opening its doors in September of 2015. The students, from kindergarten through high school, work with volunteers on a one-on-one basis. Just a few months in, the center has already received messages from a couple of the children's teachers, sharing specific needs. The center is open Monday-Wednesday each week from 3-5 p.m. and welcomes volunteers. Click here to email Ms. Gubenski for information about volunteer opportunities.
The Bazillion Book Drive focuses on children from infancy through third grade, and is the mission project associated with the 2016 Annual Conference. Nonprofit agencies, libraries, schools and other groups serving children living in poverty are encouraged to complete the request form. "The application is so easy to complete, the results are so wonderful, the people involved are so kind, the happiness it brings to the children is so gratifying," said Gubenski. "I would highly encourage other organizations to complete and submit the Bazillion Book Drive application." Click here to view the request form.
"It is beautiful to see the children that we work with at the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Learning Center receive a brand new book of their own," said Gubenski. "But just as wonderful is the spirit of ecumenism demonstrated through the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church Bazillion Book Drive’s donation of books to a small organization of the Catholic Diocese of Birmingham, as we together strive to do the will of our Savior in serving the poor in Gate City."