Nate Stepp, along with his friend and classmate Dylan Bush, jumped in the car on a Wednesday evening in mid-March with only one thing in mind; they had an appointment to drop off 750 books at Paterson Library in New Jersey on Thursday morning. With no itinerary in place, the two friends hit the road.
After several hours behind the wheel, some pit stops, and a few naps on the side of the road, the two arrived ready to unload the books at the Paterson library. “It was really cool to help out this library which was sponsoring The Big Book Drive, an event geared toward donating books to children in need living within Paterson.”
Stepp, an AmeriCorps member since October of 2012, began toying with the idea of collecting and donating books toward the end of January. “Being an AmeriCorps member has helped me better understand the realm of tutoring and the importance of reading to our youth today. I thought what better way to represent our organization than to gather donated books for a community in need,” said Stepp.
Cynthia Czesak, Director of the Paterson Public Library corresponded with Nate via email prior to his arrival in Paterson and was impressed by his desire to donate books to a community far away from his own.
“I could not believe someone could be so determined and dedicated to collecting and delivering books to a community over 600 miles away! It was so thoughtful and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting him,” said Czesak.
According to northjersey.com, the North Jersey Media Group Foundation joined with the Paterson Free Public Library to launch a campaign to provide children’s books to Paterson, NJ children whose local public library branch and its entire book collection were destroyed in Hurricane Irene in 2011.
“The North Jersey Media Group, which publishes two newspapers both the Record and the Herald News, ran a small story about the devastation to Paterson Library’s north side branch which was destroyed by Hurricane Irene in August 2011 and resulted in a loss of over 10,000 books for our community,” said Czesak.
Czesak went on to further say that the actual number of books donated at the Big Book Drive this year is still being determined. “We don't have an exact number yet but we estimate that at least 40,000 books were collected. This was again an incredible effort and we extend a big thanks to everyone who took part in helping us raise all of these books. We do book distribution events throughout the year and now we can distribute generously,” said Czesak.
“In many ways this book donation project that I took on helped me put my studies in class as a graduate student into practice. Suddenly I wasn’t just reading about a hypothetical scenario in a text book, I was in a real setting recognizing the challenges that this community was facing from a teacher, administrator and student perspective,” said Stepp.
Stepp is finishing his master’s degree in education from Valparaiso University and will graduate in summer 2013.
As an AmeriCorps member, Stepp has been tutoring and working with students at Cooks Corners Elementary School in Valparaiso, IN. “I have very much enjoyed tutoring students at Cooks Corners, there is no question that it has been an incredibly rewarding experience,” said Stepp.
As for the future, one thing remains certain. Stepp is focused on ways to continue lending a helping hand to communities in need across the United States.
“I would very much like to continue with this type service project to other communities in different states,” said Stepp.
If you are interested in becoming an AmeriCorps member, go to www.myamericorps.gov to apply or contact email@example.com for more information. Summer positions are available. Applicants apply online at americorps.gov.
“This material is based upon work supported by the Corporation for National and Community Service under AmeriCorps Grant No. 09ACHIN0010003. Opinions or points of view expressed in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position of, or a position that is endorsed by, the Corporation or the AmeriCorps program.”