Children’s Book Blitz – Week 38

Where I Went:
The City of Portland gave The Children’s Book Bank the task of sorting and distributing a donation of 100,000 books for local school children. The following lists a more accurate description, taken directly from Hands On Portland’s volunteer website:

On behalf of Portland’s children, the mayor has accepted a donation of 100,000 children’s books from Bazillion Books for Kids and has called on The Children’s Book Bank, a local nonprofit, to help organize and move this huge donation of used children’s books into the hands and homes of local school children who are desperately in need of books. This project will directly reach 5,000 local school children. Every student at select high-need schools will get to choose 10-12 books of their own to take home.

First Impressions:
I adore the Children’s Book Bank and admire what they do for the kids of our city. When I read about the Book Blitz opportunity, I immediately signed up to help the first day, worried that slots would fill quickly.
Side Note: Slots are not filling quickly. They are in dire need of additional volunteers. Read on.

I posted a note on my Facebook page asking if anyone wanted to come with me. My good friend Jackie volunteered. 
Because of the large amount of donated books, work can’t be done at the regular CBB location in Northeast Portland. This 2 1/2 week event is held at the Memorial Colosseum, one mile from Jackie’s Pearl District loft. I parked near her house and we stopped for coffee before walking over the Broadway Bridge together.
I love walking in my city!
A morning with a friend, a latte, and surrounded by thousands of children’s books. What could be better?
The Job:
We arrived for our 9-noon shift and found huge boxes spaced out evenly in a large conference room. Each carton held 2000 books in need of sorting.
Robin, CBB’s Operations Director, was in the midst of training a group to clean books while Executive Director, Dani, asked us to sign in. 
Robin telling people what to do.
Jackie and I grabbed 2 empty tables moved them next to one of the Gaylord Boxes. (The large containers are called “Gaylords”. I had no idea.) We dug in and sorted each book according to approximate age level. Any books that were in bad shape, outdated, or meant for adults went straight to the recycling bin.
At first, sorting was a bit slower than normal. We had to stop and reminisce each time we came across treasures dear to our heart. “A Monster at the End of This Book”, “Blubber”, “Harry Potter” – so many memories in that Gaylord!
Jackie and a book that is special to both of us.
There were some questionable items, too. Like already completed math workbooks or the Beatrix Potter calendar from 2009 that had been filled out by some mom somewhere. 
Please, friends, recycle your calendars at the end of the year. Strangers are not interested in your dentist appointments.
About an hour and a half into the sorting, I overheard Dani ask Robin if there were any teachers in the group. I piped up that I was a former teacher. Dani asked if I’d be comfortable sorting chapter books by grade level.
Comfortable? I told her I do this for fun.
From 10:30 on I was a machine. I missed talking with Jackie, but now I was in my element. As soon as the chapter books were passed my way, I tossed them into their respective grade level piles on the 6 foot tables. 
I knew there was a reason for all of my hours worked in the school library. Sure, I thought maybe it meant a job as a librarian someday, but maybe it was all for this!
How To Help:
Click on this Hands On Portland link to sign up for a volunteer shift during the 2 1/2 week period that ends October 4.
Just in case you are wondering how desperate CBB is for help – during the entire year of  2011, volunteers for CBB cleaned, sorted, and distributed 95,000 books. They are now being asked to do the same tasks for 100,000 books in only 16 days. 
There are morning shifts, afternoon shifts, evening shifts, weekend shifts – you can find a shift to fit your needs. If you can’t stay the entire time, email Robin at info(at)childrensbookbank(dot)org with the hours you can be there. They will take what you can give.
A special request for teachers, librarians, or book nerds like me: You are needed for your grade-level sorting expertise. Please consider giving 3 hours over the next 2 weeks to help ensure that our low-income students fall in love with reading by having books of their very own.
When I started this blogging experiment of mine, I really didn’t want to repeat the same volunteer activity twice in a row. However, with the amount of help CBB needs and the short time frame they have, I’m breaking my own rule and returning next week.
Consider giving a few hours. Jackie and I had a great time. I bet you will, too.
Related Posts:
My friend Jackie’s blog and her perspective on our outing

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