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December 1, 2009

Readers in the Hood Give Back

Posted by webmaster
Marsha Toy Engstrom and her book club, Readers in the Hood, do a lot more than get together and discuss books. They lend a helping hand in various ways in their northern California community.

In today's post, Marsha talks about some of their endeavors, like donating books to the library of a preschool for homeless and underprivileged children (see photo below)...and why they're actually the selfish ones.

Marsha's Previous Posts:
The Book Club Cheerleader's Top 10 Book Club Books of 2009
Library Resources for Book Clubs

We Readers in the Hood all feel so blessed --- and no matter what is on our plates, there is always a small way we can try to give back. Over the years, we have found many non-profit organizations whose mission we believe in. By participating in their events, we are not only helping a good cause, but we also have a wonderful time together as a group --- so it's really a win-win!

We have walked together to support a friend in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. We collected stuffed animals for children at local hospitals as part of the Annual Bunny Drive in honor of Sammie Hartsfield, a local girl who recently lost her three-year battle with osteosarcoma. We collected Toys for Tots, and have sponsored tables for many local Hospital Foundation events. But here are some of our favorite ways we have found to give back. You could say these events have become annual traditions with our book group.

Friends of the Library: While two members serve on the Friends board, almost all of our Hoodie members are also "Friends" members. We support this worthy organization by donating and sorting books for their quarterly book sales, and supporting their events including Fright Night, book sales, Mystery Night and author lectures. Our leader even serves as the Special Events Coordinator, finding the featured authors.

National Kidney Foundation: For the past five years, Readers in the Hood has sponsored a table at the NKF authors' luncheon. Not only do we help raise funds for a worthy organization, but we also look forward to this annual event as a fun "girl outing"! A bonus is that we get to meet fabulous authors there --- and typically select a few of their books for future Hoodie reads. This year, meeting Abraham Verghese, Annie Barrows and Gail Tsukiyama was a real treat.

Food Closet: For the past three years, we have collected canned goods, toiletries and paper goods for our local Food Closet during our "Giving Back at Thanksgiving" project. The Food Closet serves a critical need, supporting many other faith-based groups and homeless shelters in our community. In these tough economic times, they serve as a vital resource for many who would otherwise fall through the cracks.

Yolo County Historical Museum: For the past couple of years, our book club has participated in another holiday event, The Festival of Trees. Many local organizations donate a decorated tree, wreath or other holiday decoration, which the museum later auctions at the museum's holiday party. We take inspiration from a book title; for example, last year we used Cry of the Peacock by Gina B. Nahai and this year we're working with The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore. We then place that book under the tree to include with the tree donation as our little nod to promoting literacy.

Noah's Ark Preschool: Another project near and dear to our hearts is the local school for homeless and underprivileged children. For the past few years, in lieu of reading a book in December, we donate books to the preschool library. In addition, we get to play Santa. The preschool director gives us the names, ages and genders of the students and their siblings, along with a hint as to what is on their Christmas lists. We each bring the wrapped toy that we have purchased for our chosen child to our Holiday party. Is it really better to give than receive? You betcha! And what a great gift we give ourselves at this holiday time!

If traditions help build the foundation of a group's culture, then I feel honored that our book club is growing a culture of literacy in our community while embracing the value of giving back. We're actually pretty selfish --- since we're the ones who receive the gift.

---Marsha Toy Engstrom
Book Club Cheerleader and
Head Hoodie, Readers in the Hood