Kids Need Books began in the spring of 2016 with a conversation over coffee between Chuck Robinson, Ray Dellecker, Tim Farris, and me. From that initial meeting, KNB grew into a vibrant project that has delivered more than 131,000 free quality books into the hands and homes of underserved families throughout Whatcom County (WA).
Fallout from the ongoing pandemic and major challenges and changes in my life have prompted me to make a tough decision about Kids Need Books: I am stepping back and transitioning the program to the Bellingham Central Lions Club Books for Kids Program, overseen by Amber Becker. (A donation link is at the end of this blog. Please specify that your donation is for Books for Kids.)
It’s time to close the books on KNB and write a new chapter for a new endeavor.
I will be forever grateful for the profound impact KNB has had upon my life. Through the simple act of handing out books, I have met hundreds of amazing people of all ages—both at the giving and receiving ends of the book distributions. I’ve witnessed the transformation of young children who have learned to read as a result of supportive parents and a copious supply of KNB books. I’ve seen kids dramatically improve their reading ability—like the eight-year-old boy at Regency Park Apartments raised by a single dad. During the pandemic, KNB provided father and son with a weekly dose of leveled readers. Over a six-month period the boy’s reading level grew by three years. He moved from being seriously below grade level in his reading ability to being above grade level.
Over the past five and a half years a small army of KNB volunteers has collected, organized, and distributed books to hundreds of families. We’ve worked indoors and out—under the hot sun and driving rain. We’ve worked in church basements and school gyms, parking lots and playgrounds, trailer parks and apartment laundromats. We’ve set up our tables at satellite food banks, winter coat distributions, neighborhood block parties, youth book clubs, and community breakfasts. We’ve served people of color, undocumented folks, migrant worker families, and LGBTQ+ kids.
And throughout all of this, we volunteers have received more than we have given. We have heard the stories of amazingly resilient individuals. We’ve learned how parents of little means work unceasingly to provide the best opportunities for their children. We’ve witnessed how underserved families are models of gratitude and generosity. In the end, we’ve discovered how wonderful our community can be when we join together to help one another.
I want to thank everyone who has been a part of Kids Need Books, and know, that by attempting to do so, I will miss many folks who have helped out along the way. Please forgive me for my oversight.
This list is in no particular order of importance. You are all my heroes! Think of this as a kind of litany of saints. I am forever grateful to:
- Chuck Robinson. For your guidance, generosity, and support from the beginning.
- Mark and Chris Owings. For always being there, rain or shine. For being my rock when my life got stormy.
- Diane Sue. For knowing books and speaking fluent Spanish. For working outdoors under the hot sun in Lynden to serve migrant families.
- Ronalee Kincaid. For distributing handknit scarves, hats and books. For storing books in your shop. For your incredible smile.
- Rowena (Ro) Donelson. For always remembering each family and what they liked to read. For helping out everywhere—from Christ the King in B’ham to St. Peter’s in Deming.
- Jackie Scutvivk. For helping out even when your doctor told you to stay home.
- Debbie Plog. For sharing your love of books and volunteering.
- Daryl Madill and Steve Globerman. For years of helping out. B’ham misses both of you.
- Carol Comeau and and Kathie Wilson and the Friends of the Bellingham Library. For thousands of donated books.
- Christy Dahms and the team of volunteers at the Assistance League of Bellingham. For thousands of books given and critical help at the distribution sites.
- Ray and Carol Dellecker. For your support from the beginning.
- Ray Carlstrom and Amy Slonim. For taking over this past summer for the monster B’ham School District Back to School Block Party.
- Kathy Robbins. For helping with book distributions, especially last summer’s monster B’ham School District Back to School Block Party.
- John Schick. For putting on your librarian’s hat and working all day at the B’ham School District Back to School Block Party.
- Doug Cole. For being a KNB advocate and getting us connected with the Rotary Club of Bellingham.
- Carol Dukes. For your many hours of help at the satellite food banks.
- Tim and Leslie Farris. For your volunteer work and leadership at Alderwood Elementary School over the years.
- Margie Goetz. For stepping up and helping out at last summer’s B’ham School District Back to School Block Party.
- Kalei Church. For your generous donation of books.
- Trish Navarre. For always stepping up to help from Deming to the School District’s Block Party.
- JoAnn and Dave Johnson. For finding me a place to live and giving me a place to store thousands of books.
- Bob and Maureen Jorgenson. For helping out at Alderwood’s Multicultural Festival.
- Dick and Cherie Little. For your assistance at the satellite food banks and your continued support for literacy in Whatcom County.
- Marjorie Lorant. For your outreach and help with serving migrant worker families at the camps in northern Whatcom County.
- Cheryl Stritzel McCarthy. For writing and publishing brilliant essays promoting KNB.
- Victoria Doerper. For your generous financial support.
- Linda Morrow. For running the show solo when I was gone. For your continued moral and financial support.
- Lisa Dailey. For building this KNB website and keeping it up and running.
- Steve and Margie Kimberley. For your generosity and help from the beginning to the present.
- Laura Kalpakian. For donating kids’ toys, strollers, and other goodies to hand out with books.
- Holly Miller. For helping out at St. Peter’s in Deming and every place in between.
- Laura Harker. For your leadership, vision, and support.
- Janie Pemble. For being an incredible advocate and volunteer.
- Andrea Hausner. For being the world’s best bookkeeper and financial wizard.
- Connie Cogburn. For your support and for being a wonderful listener.
- Marie and Don Valum and all the good people at St. Peter’s Church in Deming. For all that you do to feed, clothe, and serve folks in Deming and beyond.
- Jim and Karen Wakefield. For stepping up to volunteer from day one until now.
- Amber Becker. For keeping the KNB dream alive by taking over the program with the Bellingham Central Lions Club.
- Bob Curtis. For helping with book distributions and providing excellent leadership for the Bellingham Central Lions Club.
- Cathy (MacKay) Nolting. For helping out at a drive-through distribution at a trailer court, Regency Park Apartments, and the Agape Project. For being there to translate for our Spanish-speakers. For saying “Yes.”
- Laura Picco. For being an amazing book-buyer at Village Books and for putting aside quality used books each week for KNB.
- Dave Deutsch. For your unwavering support and wit and wisdom as the ‘bread guy’ at the Alderwood satellite food bank.
- Sue Webber. For getting it done every week at the Alderwood satellite food bank. For your fierce advocacy for undocumented families living in the shadows.
- Del Vanderkerk. For helping get books and supplies from Lynden.
- Mike Cohen. For your leadership and vision at the Food Bank.
- Van Dartt. For your incredible leadership and support at the satellite food banks.
- Melanie Danner. For always welcoming KNB at the Bellingham Food Bank main center and satellite distributions.
- Shanna Sheridan and the PNW Beer Moms. For your awesome KNB fundraiser at Menace Brewing. Beer and books and best friends celebrating made for such a fun night!
- John Stewart and Heather Higgins. For your generous donation of books.
- Roy and Nancy Taylor. For your generous donation of books.
- Dan O’Neill and Sarah Campbell. For your generous donation of books.
- Vrina England and the Blaine United Church of Christ. For your generous donation of books.
- Emily Wright. For your generous donation of books.
- Ron and Ann Lueb. For your generous donation of books.
- Marion Harmon. For your generous donation of books.
- Angie Ritchey. For your generous donation of books.
- Matthew Flynn. For collecting and distributing books at the Agape Project as part of your Eagle Scout project.
- Paige Johnston. For your generous donation of books.
- Kim Callen. For your generous donation of books.
- Spencer Berger. For your generous donation of books.
- Liz Herdman. For your financial support and your generous donation of books at the PNW Beer Moms’ fundraiser.
- Sidney Anderson. For your financial support and your generous donation of books at the PNW Beer Moms’ fundraiser.
- Diane Cooper-Schick. For your financial support and your generous donation of books at the PNW Beer Moms’ fundraiser.
- Sharon Jensen. For your financial support and your generous donation of books at the PNW Beer Moms’ fundraiser.
- Margen Riley. For your financial support and your generous donation of books at the PNW Beer Moms’ fundraiser.
- Alice and Jay Shihanek. For your financial support and your generous donation of books at the PNW Beer Moms’ fundraiser.
- Kim and Mike Finger. For your financial support and your generous donation of books at the PNW Beer Moms’ fundraiser.
- Dan Anderson. For your generous donation of books.
- Linda Yetman. For your wonderful kindness and generosity.
- Steve Brinn. For your generous donation of books.
- Jennifer Gaetz. For fostering a great partnership between the B’ham School District and KNB.
- Gwen Vanderhage. For your continued generous donations of books.
- Angie Ritchey. For your generous donation of books.
- Lisa Blum. For your generous donation of books.
- Faith Whaley, Bridget Littlefield, and Micah Smith. For collaborating with KNB to put on the world’s best book fair for Alderwood Elementary students and all the books were free!
- Ann Stevenson. For your generous donation of books and service to families at Family Promise.
- Nanci Zander. For all of your support through the Assistance League of Bellingham.
- Francie and Ken Gass. For your generous financial support.
- Sharry and Joe Nyberg. For multiple donations of quality books.
- Wendy and Tim Crandall. For your generous financial support.
- Rosemary Ryan. For your generous donation of books.
- Lisa Gilchrist. For the stellar article on KNB published for the B’ham School District.
- Amory Peck and Linda Lambert. For your generous financial support.
- Mike and Barb Webb. For your generous financial support. For saving my life.
- Kelly Morgan. For your support and guidance with the book and food distributions at the Eliza Mobile Court.
- Pete Tryon and Meg Hayes. For your generous financial support.
- Marijoyce Leynes and her daughter Benny. For Benny’s brilliant and generous birthday plan: have her friends bring children’s books as gift and donate them to KNB. Wow!
- Jacqueline Longstretch. For your support and guidance with the book and food distributions at the Sudden Valley Community Center.
- Pam Sinnett. For your generous donation of books.
- Gina DePalma. For helping with book distributions.
- Melissa Alves. For your generous donation of books.
- Lani Fortune. For your generous donation of books.
- Sharon King. For all your help with KNB storage needs at the Garden Street Methodist Church.
- Virginia Herrick and the Bellingham Friends Meeting. For your generous donation of books.
- Mary Hansen. For your generous donation of books.
- Jillian Froebe. For your generous financial support.
- Beth Dreher. For your generous financial support.
- Carol Birkenhead. For donating books and all of your stimulus check to KNB.
- Paige Johnston. For your generous donation of books.
- Kate Destler. For your generous donation of books.
- Pam Sankey. For your generous financial support and book donations.
- Elizabeth Wilbur. For your generous donation of books.
- Emily Blackburn. For your generous donation of books.
- Krista Register. For your generous donation of books.
- Jessyca Arthur. For your generous donation of books.
- Kari Diehl. For your generous donation of books.
- Heather Poellot. For your generous donation of books.
- Marsha Riddle Buly. For your generous donation of books.
- Kristi Charlton. For donating your huge Henderson’s book credit to KNB.
- Lorraine Whale. For your generous donation of books.
- Devin Connolly. For your unwavering advocacy for and support of women in crisis in Whatcom County.
- Daneen Bott. For doing a stellar job in helping the families at Regency Park Apartments.
- MJ Sinkel, Jim Nolting, Tom Nolting, Laura Smith, and Nancy Scagnelli. For being my sibs, a job you never signed up for. For supporting KNB with books and money and love.
- John Siegfried. For being the world’s best therapist. For keeping me on this planet.
- Kelsey Harrington with the Agape Project and the Archdiocese of Seattle. For all you do to serve migrant worker families in Whatcom County.
- Ridwell. For gathering a truckload of quality books for KNB and the Lions.
- Lindsey McGuirk and Deanna Wildermuth and the wonderful staff at the Interfaith Coalition staff past and present. For providing a non-profit umbrella and a strong partnership for KNB.
- Bellingham Central Lions Club. For your generous donation. For being willing to adopt KNB into the Lions’ Books for Kids Program.
- Whatcom Community Foundation. For Pamela Jons, Missy Belles, Mauri Ingram, and other members of your amazing staff. For your generous financial support over the years through multiple Project Neighborly grants.
- Bellingham Food Bank. For all that you have done and continue to do to give a hand up to underserved folks in Whatcom County.
- Bellingham Bay Rotary Club. For your generous donations.
- Rotary Club of Bellingham. For your generous donations.
- The Deming Foothills Foodbank. For serving folks in need.
- Paul Hanson, Kelly Evert, Sarah Hutton and all the wonderful staff at Village Books. For operating the world’s best independent book store. For helping KNB and its mission from day one.
- Ben Nolting. For your love of books from day one. For being my son. You will never be forgotten.
Thank YOU for all of your effort on this amazing project! I have already connected with Amber for getting her library donations!
Best to you on your new adventures. I hope to see you to thank you in person one day.
Carol, thank you for your continued dedication to literacy and learning in Bellingham. The future looks bright and we will, indeed, meet in person before too long.
Joe, it was such a joy to connect with you and your amazing mission! Thanks for all you have done, all the connections you have made, and for your great heart and enthusiasm for getting books to kids! Kathie
Kathie, thank you for your kind words. You and the Friends of the Bellingham Public Library continue to do wonderful work.
You’ve made such a rich and worthwhile contribution to children and literacy. Thank you, Joe. We’ll be watching for whatever is next.
Thanks, Judy. I look forward to sharing poetry with you and Luther as the pandemic unwinds…
It may have a different name with a different organization, but KNB will live on forever! Thank you Joe for everything.
Linda, right back at you. Thanks for your consistent support for all things KNB and kids’ literacy.
Great program! Don’t forget to use halfpriced books offerings for more free book programs!
Your enthusiasm and plain goodness has been an inspiration to me. It galvanized me into action on several fronts, provided places and people to connect with, and, most important of all, made the distributions and interactions with others just plain fun!
Ronalee, your work with Project Warmup was one of the inspirations and sparks that got me going with KNB. And the beat goes on, just with a new instrument. Yesterday I picked up four boxes of free books from Village Books and delivered them to Amber with the Lions Club…
Thank you for creating KNB! Your mission, dedication, and hard work matched by your compassion and love of life brought untold treasures to so many including those of us who volunteered with you. Thank you for passing the torch and ensuring that the love of literature is obtainable for everyone. Best of luck in your next endeavor.
Ro, thank you for all the wonderful lessons I learned by working beside you. You and I certainly witnessed our fair share of magic and miracles along the way.
I hope our paths cross again soon…
Joe, KNB was history-making and record-breaking in our corner of the world. Thanks for your inspiration and hard work. I’m honored to have taken even a small part. I hope we can keep in touch.
Dick, thank you for your kind and generous words. And thanks to Cherie for getting me to cull all “Barbie” books from the KNB collection. I appreciate the absence of semi-colons in your post 🙂