No. 678



If you read my column on a regular basis, no doubt you know that we have a unique literacy project here in Conway, Arkansas, titled, “A Bookcase for Every Child.” We build quality, personalized, oak bookcases and give them, along with a starter set of books, to children in low-income families. Without our help, many of these children will wind up on welfare, illegal drugs, crime or suffer premature death. As I share this, I would remind you again that these children are the future of our nation.
This is an all-volunteer project, not 501 (3)(C), and we use no tax money or grants of any kind. No one profits monetarily in any way. I might add, however, the psychological rewards are great. The real winners are these children, our community, state and nation. The only expense we have is just the money to purchase the wood and supplies to build the bookcases. For the past four years I have personally raised the funds by either selling my book that was published for this purpose or by receiving small donations.
As I thought about this situation, I realized there would be a day when I would no longer be around and, with the help of our committee, we came up with an idea to hold an annual Bookcase Literacy Banquet. I am happy to report to you that the banquet is now history, as we held what we believe to be the first Bookcase Literacy Banquet in the history of our nation. On Oct. 16, 2008, at the Bob Courtway Middle School Cafeteria in Conway, for $15.95 each, more than 250 people sat down for a wonderful meal, some great entertainment and each person received a complimentary copy of my book, “Learning, Earning & Giving Back” as a memento of the occasion.
Everyone in attendance seemed to really enjoy the banquet, as there were no less than three standing ovations. In just one evening we raised enough funds to build the next 50 bookcases and had some left over to provide seed money or start-up costs for a bookcase project in another community in our county. What was so exciting for me is that I believe most people who were there caught the vision of what we are doing to combat the problem of illiteracy, and what this is doing to our people and our society. You know you have a problem when four of every 10 students in American schools drop-out before they graduate.
We are building bookcases and giving books to these special children. Many people and groups can do that, but what we have here is a true “community” project, where people from all walks of life come together to become a part of the solution. Sadly, many people do not know how bad the problem of illiteracy actually is. To solve this problem nationwide we must create “awareness” and all of us must work together, and this means we must be actively involved. Here are some of the steps we took, and some of the people that made our banquet a success.
Every person on our central committee of 14 people made a contribution and Linda Hammontree and her committee decorated the room with a literacy theme. We had 43 students and 2 teacher advisers from the St. Joseph High School “Book Club” who served our meal. Jason Rapert, Tim Trawick and members of their band provided the great music and we had 8 to 10 volunteer cooks who prepared our meal. We also had 20 to 30 good cooks in our community who made homemade desserts. We also had more than 20 members of “The Bookcase Club” who gave $50, and some more, to purchase the food. We were all involved, made a contribution, and no one was hurt financially.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a public speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034. To support literacy, buy his book: “Learning, Earning & Giving Back.”)