First Book Brings ‘Giving Tuesday’ Local (Video)

First Book Montgomery County is looking to change the holiday season for local children one page at a time.

As shoppers wandered through aisles to pick out gifts at Barston’s Child’s Play in Rockville, volunteers greeted them at the door with free gift wrapping services, hoping to collect money for children that wouldn’t have a chance at unwrapping a brand new book this Christmas.

The local volunteers were there as part of a national effort to raise donations called “Giving Tuesday.”

“Amid the hectic holiday season there’s a day all about giving and giving back so our goal today is to raise 2,500 dollars and that will allow us to get 1,000 books for children in the county,” said Tanya Lee, chair of First Book Montgomery County.

The organization works with approximately 200 recipient groups to bring the joy of reading to local children. One of those groups is the Early Childhood Education Club at Montgomery College. The club helps First Book distribute reading materials to children in need by partnering with local college students.

“There are families that I know that will not go out and buy a book for fifteen or twenty dollars because many of them can’t afford it,” said Sonia Pruneda-Hernandez, an Early Childhood Education Professor at Montgomery College. “If I had the choice of buying a book for fifteen dollars or purchasing food for the week, it’s probably going to be the food, so for me it’s very exciting to be able to get it out to the community that actually needs it.”

Since its inception in 2001, the organization has distributed more than 50,000 books to children in need and it continues to grow.

Donations collected through the program are used to purchase brand new books at reduced prices that are then given to those who need it most.

“Any group that serves kids with low income families we will work with them to give them small what we call book grants where they can you know get a hundred dollars and then go online at the first book marketplace and shop and get the books that they want,” Lee said.

Volunteers wrap gifts on "Giving Tuesday" for customers at Barston's Child's Play in Rockville.

Volunteers wrap gifts on “Giving Tuesday” for customers at Barston’s Child’s Play in Rockville.

But Giving Tuesday is just the beginning of the holiday season for First Book. Volunteers will be wrapping presents and collecting donations in Rockville everyday from now through Christmas Eve.

“The thought of a kid not having books in the home is a pretty, I don’t like to think about that so I love the fact that we help match up children with books and get those books into their homes,” said Denise Schleckser, a board member with the organization.

And for some volunteers, the mission hits close to home.

“My country is from a third world country which is the Philippines so helping out is a big thing for me,” said First Book volunteer Andrea Gelano. “I guess you can say that like being your own philanthropist you know you don’t have much but then this type of thing volunteering is such a big help to everyone.”

But after all of the hard work and organizing, organizers say it’s worth it.

“We had teacher literally jumping for joy,” Lee said. “Women with tears they were just so moved by the opportunity to get brand new books that are not destroyed not you know rejects from a publisher and to just have that quality of books to give to their kids is just amazing.”

Find more information on First Book Montgomery County here.

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Valerie Bonk

About Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk is a multimedia reporter and community engagement specialist with Montgomery Community Media (MCM).


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