“I think I need to do something more meaningful with my time.” Those were the words I blurted out two and a half years ago to my friend Jane, at the gym where we both work out. Jane paused in the middle of lifting a kettle bell. She’s one of those people whose eyes truly twinkle when she’s excited. Her eyes twinkled madly and she asked, “Have you heard of The Children’s Book Bank?”
I hadn’t. But as a former marketing director at a publishing house, the mother of 3 (mostly grown) children, and a lifelong bookworm whose favourite places are libraries and bookstores, I soon agreed to visit The Book Bank with her to check it out.
Like everyone who crosses the threshold at 350 Berkeley, I was instantly entranced by the magical atmosphere of the place. The sun was streaming in through the windows, children were choosing books, babies were crawling on the floors, cheerful volunteers were suggesting good read-aloud picture books to parents, and the whole place hummed with the joy of people pleased to be surrounded by books, artfully displayed and available for free. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I wanted to curl up in the giant leather chair in the front room and start reading myself!
I was lucky enough in the next few months to be invited on to the Board of the Book Bank and soon after became a volunteer once a week. I was quickly humbled by the strength and expertise of the staff (moving books is almost as good a workout as weightlifting at the gym!) and the knowledge of the other volunteers, many of whom are retired schoolteachers or librarians. I’m constantly staggered by the commitment of both the Book Bank’s founder and by the other Board members and the volunteers. I love being around people who care so much about getting books into the hands of small people who might not otherwise have books at home. I’m pleased that I was able to inspire my daughter to run a book drive at her school, resulting in a donation of over a thousand books. But I am also aware that The Children’s Book Bank gives away 10,000 books a month, 6,000 of which are given away from its main location, with another 4,000 being distributed through our partners in various high needs areas in the GTA. Which means The Children’s Book Bank needs at least 10 book drives like the one my daughter ran, every month of the year!
In our Board meetings we talk strategy about growing the effectiveness and reach of The Children’s Book Bank and discuss ways to fundraise to keep this vital place open, staffed and stocked with great books. There are always challenges, but the passion around the table for making a difference in the lives of our customers, is inspiring.
At the end of the day, I’m just proud to be part of such an amazing organization. And I can say now to Jane, who is a former Board Director, that my life is definitely more meaningful since The Children’s Book Bank became part of it. Thanks Jane.