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Changing lives one book at a time

Community mentors Crestwood pupils, raises money for books

Created date

August 3rd, 2016
Shirley Teasley (front) and Judy Molseed (center) distribute books to students.

Shirley Teasley (front) and Judy Molseed (center) distribute books to students.

Maya Angelou once remarked, “Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his needs, is good for him.” For members of the Catholic Council at Greenspring, an Erickson Living community in Springfield, Va., it is the guiding force behind their three-year mission to put books into the hands of children at nearby Crestwood Elementary School.

“Our program began in 2013 when we became aware of the fact that, although Fairfax County is known as an affluent area, there are pockets of poverty in the county,” says Greenspring resident Judy Molseed, a member of the Catholic Council.  

“Crestwood Elementary is one of these schools. Just under 70% of its students receive free or reduced cost meals.  About the same percentage are not proficient in the English language. Many of these children come from immigrant families where both parents often work more than one job. As a result, these kids don’t have a lot of what we consider quality parent time.”  

When faced with these sobering statistics, Greenspring community members rallied together, led by the Catholic Council. To date, they have raised enough money to buy more than 2,000 books for these in-need children.

Making a difference

Beginning in the 2013–2014 school year, members of the Catholic Council contacted reading specialists at Crestwood Elementary who selected books that are age and grade appropriate for the children in kindergarten through sixth grade.

Working with national bookseller Scholastic Books, they also crafted a deal that allows them to purchase the books at cost. Scholastic Books also agreed to ship the books for free to Crestwood Elementary.

The books are funded through two extra collections at weekly Friday masses, most recently in May.

“We feel an obligation to give back to the community,” says Judy. “Mastering English both as a spoken language and in the written language is vital for these kids to succeed in life. And what’s more, reading is fun! Perhaps having a book of their own to read and share will help these kids discover the big role reading can have in their lives.”

Night to celebrate

In mid-June, members of the Greenspring community visited Crestwood Elementary for their annual International Night celebration. As a result of their hard work and dedication, they delivered 664 new books to the students. Throughout the celebration, Greenspring community members read to the students and talked about the various authors.

“The International Night was the perfect time to distribute the books,” says Katherine Knoble, Greenspring’s volunteer program coordinator. “Greenspring community members were eager to visit the school and see the faces of the children they were helping. However, as we planned for the event, we realized, as it was a family function, young siblings would be at the celebration who would also benefit from new books.”

As a result, Knoble contacted Joyce Krolicki, coordinator of campus ministries at Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax for help in collecting used books in great condition for the preschool siblings. In early June, the Paul VI students hand-delivered the books to Greenspring.

“I really wanted to bring these youth leaders to Greenspring to see our community,” says Knoble. “This is a tremendous project that has brought together different generations in support of our most in-need youth.”

In addition to raising money for new books, many Greenspring community members were eager to do even more for these children. In an effort to expand their outreach, they partnered with GrandInvolve, a new Fairfax County initiative to recruit older adult volunteers to work in local schools with high poverty and minority enrollment.  

GrandInvolve, in turn, partnered with Grace Presbyterian Church to provide a bus to transport Greenspring volunteers to and from Crestwood Elementary to mentor students; read books; and work in the classrooms, library, and copy center.

“Crestwood was so delighted to have us this year,” says Judy. “In fact, it generated so much interest that we will send even more volunteers to the school for the upcoming school year.”

Plans are also under way for another book drive with planned delivery to Crestwood Elementary on March 3, 2017, Dr. Seuss’s birthday.

“All of us are so uplifted by the children,” says Judy. “They are a gift to us as much as the books are a gift to them. I believe that as long as there is a need, there will be people here at Greenspring ready to help.”