Bellefonte Reads fall event to support Jared Box Project
By Brit Milazzo
Public relations, BASD
*Editor's note: After this article was published, 188 books were collected and donated to the Jared Box Project.
When Bellefonte Reads was established five years ago, organizers had a mission to help foster a love of reading in the community by hosting literacy campaigns throughout the year that connect the community though a common book. Now, in addition to promoting community literacy initiatives, committee members are doing their part to also give back.
The Bellefonte Reads committee is hosting a book drive through Oct. 26 to help support the Jared Box Project.
“We have been so blessed with community support that at the end of the year last year, our group felt it would be so great to give toward another event,” district reading specialist and Bellefonte Reads co-chairwoman Nicole Kohlhepp said. “We didn’t just want to be an organization that took from others; we wanted to give back, as well.”
Through drop-off locations in the Bellefonte area, the Bellefonte Reads committee is encouraging the community to donate a new book appropriate for infants to teens that will be placed in Jared boxes. Books can be dropped off at any of the schools in the Bellefonte Area School District, the district administration office and local businesses such as Burger King, the Centre County Library, Cool Beans, Dam Donuts, Maria’s, Pappy Chuck’s Candy Shoppe and the YMCA.
The books should be new and small enough to fit in a box that measures 13x8x5. If other books donated do not fit in Jared boxes, then the Bellefonte Reads committee can still find a way to use the donated books.
"We have other ways to give out books throughout the year, so if a donated book doesn’t fit in the Jared box, then we will use it for our book swap at the Community Literacy Night or add it to one of our Little Free Libraries,” Bellefonte Reads founder and district literacy coach Jackie Wynkoop said.
As an alternative option, those interested in donating books, but can't make it to the bookstore to purchase books, may also look at the Amazon Wishlist created for this campaign. You may find it, here: https://www.amazon.com/registry/wishlist/28V2JXPYVRK0H/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_ep_ws_MVMVBbW610VFG
The Jared Box Project is a Centre County-based national campaign that aims to lift the spirit of hospitalized children by offering them a bin filled with items such as small gifts, toys, games and more. The project was founded in 2001 by members of Our Lady of Victory Catholic School in State College and named in memory of a student, Jared McMullen, who died of cancer. According to the initiative’s website, more than 200,000 boxes have been delivered to children in hospitals across the country.
Wynkoop added that the one thing they needed most was more donations of books to fill the Jared boxes.
“The thought that we can put quality books in the hands of sick children is really special,” Wynkoop said. “Who doesn’t want to read a book to pass the time in the hospital? It’s nice to tie in that literacy piece and a great way for us to give back and spread our message, as well.”
The Bellefonte Reads committee, comprised of staff from the Bellefonte Area School District and various community members, is still finalizing details for this school year’s events. The One Book, One Bellefonte event will be held Feb. 21 at the high school where community members can pick up a free book that fits with this year’s theme. Community Literacy Night will be held March 14 (with a March 21 snow makeup day) also at the high school.
The goal for those events is to promote a book or series of books that appeal to people of all reading levels and encourages conversation about current issues. Ideas include farm-to-table, 9/11 and refugee-related topics. Last year’s theme was “overcoming challenges” and featured the books “The Hate U Give” for high schoolers and adults; “The One and Only Ivan” for intermediate readers; and “Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla” for preschool and early elementary school students.
The Bellefonte Reads committee is always looking for new ways to spread a love of literacy in the community. Next year, the group is excited about the possibility of holding a "Bellefonte Reads Under the Lights" event at the newly-renovated Rogers Stadium.