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Students coordinate book drive for charity

Laura Vilim | Tuesday, March 30, 2004

In an attempt to extend the gift of education to those of the South Bend community, Notre Dame students Nina Pressly and Marty Sims have launched a project aimed at collecting books on campus that will eventually be distributed to local children of lower-income families.

The drive, named “Readers are Leaders,” will begin before the Easter holiday and will continue for the remainder of the spring semester. To collect the books, Pressly and Sims have created boxes, which will be set up in every dorm as well as in the lobbies of both dining halls, LaFortune and various other academic buildings on campus.

All books – new and used – that are suitable for children not yet enrolled in high school can be donated. The drive will also be accepting bookstore credit and cash donations in order to buy books, Sims said.

Once books have been collected on campus, Pressly and Sims will deliver them to South Bend area schools that serve low income students and to educational programs such as the ones held at the Robinson Community Learning Center. Pressly said that she also hopes some books can be donated to the Alliance for Catholic Education program so that ACE members can bring books to each of the nationwide schools at which they will teach.

The idea for the project came about when Sims, a junior from Knott Hall, contacted Howard freshman Pressly after reading a previous article in The Observer about the book project she started in her local area of Palm Beach County, Fla.

Sims has also had experience working on book drives that benefited homeless children through his parish in Scottsdale, Ariz. The drive will be sponsored by Howard Hall but is primarily a program that developed from the initiative of Pressly and Sims to form a new opportunity to perform service.

“While we hear about food drives and blood drives we don’t often hear about book drives,” Sims said.

In this first year of the drive, Pressly and Sims hope to achieve their goal of campus-wide participation and set a standard to reach for next year’s drive.

“It would be nice to see some participation,” Pressly said. “If every member of the student body brought in just one book, we would have close to 8,000 books. That would be amazing. I hope to do this book drive all four years that I am at ND, and this year I just want to set a number to beat for next year.”

Although Pressly and Sims are aware that other programs exist to help South Bend children receive a better education, they believe “Readers are Leaders” will fill a unique niche among Notre Dame’s illustrious community service opportunities.

“People look at ND as a beacon of literary intelligence-we should work to further propagate this idea,” Sims said. Most ND students have been the beneficiary of a wealth of books throughout their lives, and not all people have this luxury of having accessibility to books. The earlier kids start to read, the more beneficial it will be for them in the future. No child should go without a book, because books change lives.”

In addition, Pressly hopes having the program here will inspire other students to start their own book drives back home.

“I think that it is amazing how involved the Notre Dame community is and how many people enjoy doing such projects,” Pressly said. “I knew that … people would be very willing to help. Plus, I know that people are from all over the country and hopefully I can influence them to start this project in their own home towns.”