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Spreading the word

Charlestown Rotary Fellowship promotes literacy worldwide

Created date

February 21st, 2012

this article appears in print, Pat Kasuda will be up to her ears in books. Each spring Pat helps collect thousands of used books for the semiannual book drive hosted by members of the Charlestown Rotary Fellowship. Many people who move to Charlestown arrive with tons of books they don t know what to do with, says Pat, a retired nurse who initiated the Charlestown Rotary Fellowship soon after moving to the Catonsville Erickson Living community in June 2009. It seemed like a natural project for our group, and it is consistent with Rotary International s goals to promote literacy around the world. Rotary International is the oldest service club organization, with 1.2 million members worldwide. Members adhere to the motto Service above self, by providing humanitarian service, encouraging high ethical standards in all vocations, and helping build goodwill and peace in the world. Comprised of only a dozen members, Charlestown s Rotary Fellowship collected 15,000 books for Books for International Goodwill (B.I.G.) last fall. A nonprofit organization run by a core group of 15 volunteers, B.I.G. processes more than 400,000 books each year. Since their inception nearly 15 years ago, they have shipped almost four million books to poor communities around the world, as well as to United States Service Personnel and Peace Corps volunteers.

Book smart

We collect all kinds of books from college, elementary, and high school texts to general reading, including children s and adult s hardcover and paperback books, says Pat, a Glen Burnie Rotary Club member since 1993. B.I.G. President Steve Frantzich says the books are a key element in literacy programs around the world. Most of our large shipments go to Africa, the Philippines, and Pakistan (about 30,000 books per month), says Frantzich. Literacy is an empowering tool that breeds jobs and self confidence, and sending U.S.-oriented books is one way to help repair some of our negative image overseas. We also send out about 80 boxes to U.S. troops and Indian reservations. Long-time Rotary Club member Lon Chesnutt helps at the book collection drop-off sites at Charlestown. It s a good opportunity for me to talk with people about where the books are sent and the difference these donations are making in people s lives, says Lon, a retired Methodist minister, who, in 2008, traveled to two orphanages in Colombia, South America, for a Rotary service project. Lon currently helps raise funds to drill fresh water wells in Ethiopia. Avid reader and 54-year Rotary Club member Bill Kuethe says in just two years the Charlestown book drive has far exceeded anything he could have ever imagined. When Pat suggested it would be a good idea to collect books here at Charlestown, we never anticipated the incredible number of donations we would receive, says Bill. It really makes you feel good to know that the books are being put to good use and will make a difference in people s lives. I hope that the people who receive them know that someone somewhere cares enough to make the effort to get these books to them.

B.I.G. donations

Frantzich says the biggest challenge B.I.G faces is raising shipping costs to mail the donated books they collect. We receive about 1,000 donated books each day, he says. A container with 20,000 books costs us about $3,500 to ship. Aside from the book drive, last fall Pat and the Charlestown Rotary Fellowship sponsored back to school activities for Riverview Elementary School in Baltimore County and collected school supplies and donations to assist children in need. If you are willing to make a little difference in the world around you, that effort will make a world of difference in you, says Pat. If everyone gave just a little time or contribution to those in need, we could begin to see basic needs met that could reduce the need for the struggles that lead to unrest and war. Interested in volunteering with Books for International Goodwill or want to make a donation? Contact Steve Frantzich at or 210-293-6865. Financial donations can be made to Books for International Goodwill, c/o Parole Rotary, Box 6327, Annapolis, MD 21401-6327. For more information on Rotary International, visit