By Jessica Connor
For months, United Methodist churches across South Carolina have been hard at work collecting one million brand-new preschool and elementary books, which will be donated to children in need across the state through the Million Book Effort.
Now, their work comes to fruition as districts across S.C. hold processing events and collect final donations of books and money—all to help combat poverty and illiteracy.
As the Million Book Effort culminates, organizers are calling for volunteers and donations, as well as for people to think about ways to carry on the effort through childhood efforts and other partnerships.
Volunteers are needed at all district processing events, which begin May 26 and end June 3 around the state—including June 3 during Annual Conference at the Florence Civic Center. To find a processing event near you, go to www.millionbookeffort.org and scroll down the list. To sign up as a volunteer, click “register now.”
“They’ll be sorting books into age-appropriate levels, putting stickers inside the books that identify them as being from the UMC and getting books boxed and ready of distribution to the organizations that will be receiving these books,” said Matt Brodie, conference communications director.
Organizations receiving the books include schools, literacy programs, afterschool centers and more, and have been identified by districts.
Volunteers must be age 14 or older, and every volunteer regardless of age must bring a signed work waiver to the processing site (volunteers ages 14-18 must have that waiver signed by a parent or guardian). Access this waiver at the MBE website.
Brodie suggests volunteers wear comfortable shoes and be prepared to have fun while helping South Carolina kids.
Donate books and money
The Million Book Effort still needs donations of books and money to purchase those books.
Between now and May 30, bring book donations to any UMC in the state, or bring the book directly to the processing site prior to or on the date of the processing event (find a list at www.millionbookeffort.org).
For those planning to bring books and help pack at the Florence Civic Center during Annual Conference, note that books will not be accepted until that Tuesday, June 3, during the processing.
Monetary donations are being accepted at www.millionbookeffort.org, and funds will be used to purchase books for the MBE. Click Make a Donation on that website.
Sign up to be a book recipient
If you are an organization with a childcare component that serves children in poverty, it is not too late for you to sign up to be a book recipient and get some of these donated books for distribution to your service area.
Book recipients include schools, school libraries, afterschool programs, literacy programs, tutoring centers, enrichment and community centers and other nonprofits that work with children.
To apply to be a book recipient, download and submit the Book Request Form at the MBE website, or call your local district (contact information at www.umcsc.org/data/wp_findadistrictgrd.php).
Attend the celebration June 3
All involved with the MBE on any level, whether as a volunteer, a book donor or a partner, are encouraged to attend the worship service celebrating young adults and service, “In the Beginning was the Word,” Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at Annual Conference. Held at the Florence Civic Center, the service will include a celebration of the Million Book Effort.
Keep it going—MBE doesn’t stop here
The Rev. Ricky Howell, who is organizing the MBE for the conference, said the effort is only the beginning of how the UMC hopes to combat poverty and illiteracy.
“The book collection is just the first step of the MBE,” Howell said. “We want to encourage churches and individuals to form partnerships with schools and local agencies that promote literacy, to volunteer as tutors and/or reading partners and to consider other ways that they might continue to promote childhood literacy moving forward.”
Howell issued a warm thank you to every church and ministry who participated in making the God-sized dream of the MBE a reality.
“The success stories coming out of our churches are tremendously encouraging and inspiring,” Howell said. “The children in our state are being positively impacted because of what God is doing through us as United Methodists. There’s still much to be done and plenty of opportunities for all of us to be involved, so please consider visiting www.millionbookeffort.org and/or contacting your district office to see how you can help out.”