Teachers Association Delivers Almost 40k Books

By Jennifer L. Warren

WALLKILL – It’s said, “It takes a village to raise a child.” People in the town of Wallkill certainly displayed the truth behind the phrase these last few months.

Whether it was teachers, parents, or community residents, everyone came together in a rapid and unforgettable manner for two priceless reasons: children and reading. About three months ago the District librarians discovered they had the special opportunity through the not for profit organization First Book to secure new books for children in need. As a result of COVID-19, Disney Publishing had donated hundreds of cases of books that were available to those needy students and could be purchased simply by paying shipping costs. There was one stipulation: The orders had to be placed by the end of May…that was three weeks and $5,000 away.

Students in the district had already been doing distance learning for four months due to the pandemic, and librarians felt it was critical to physically get books in the hands of all students. So, they contacted the Wallkill Teachers Association (WTA), inquiring about doing a fast fundraiser to come up with needed monies to buy five pallets of books, one for each school building. Soon after, the WTA reached out to the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and learned that if they were able to raise the $5,000 of needed shipping fees, the AFT would provide 24 pallets, totaling nearly 40,000 books, enough for every district student K-12. A fundraising site was soon born by the WTA through First Book. Actively reaching out to present and past members as well as people in the community through a variety of means, the WTA remarkably raised $6,066 in just 27 hours.

Wallkill Teachers sort and organize almost 40,000 books for students.
Wallkill Teachers sort and organize almost 40,000 books for students.

In June, teachers-active and retired, as well as other staff members, volunteered for hours, sorting out bags of books by grade levels and content, providing varied bags of literary selections for each student. Since the books were provided by Disney, they carried high interest for much of the student population. Finally, on the week of July 28, the special, personalized house deliveries were made.

“Overall, everything I heard was very positive; most students were very surprised, and many were so excited that they could keep the books,” said Libby Werlau, Librarian at Wallkill High School. “It was such a huge community effort, and so many people worked so hard; it was amazing to physically put books into the hands of kids, something that has been so hard to do since schools went to distance learning.”

One of those lucky and super appreciative and happy students was Marisol Williams’ son, Josiah. A Spanish Teacher at Wallkill High School, Williams played an active role in the book giveaway event.

“I donated a couple of days to get the bags of books together and help deliver them with my husband who knew a lot of the bus routes, and where each of the houses was located because he was a former bus driver,” ‘a walking GPS,’” smiled Williams. “It was such an awesome experience, especially seeing how excited the young students were; it was like getting presents for them.” Williams added, “It also gave me the opportunity to see a lot of my students who I hadn’t seen since March, and know they were ok; also, to see so many staff, some even retired, all come together and want to help with this great cause is just such a beautiful thing… what it’s all about.”

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