United Way, Lewis Cass ISD collect books for Spring into Reading

Published 9:17 am Friday, March 22, 2019

CASSOPOLIS — Thursday morning, staff with United Way of Southwest Michigan, Lewis Cass Intermediate School District and UPS worked together to fill a truck with precious cargo. Though the shipment was not fine gold or jewels, to those working, it was something much more valuable to the community: books.

United Way of Southwest Michigan had a pick-up for its Spring into Reading book drive Thursday. From March 1 to 21, United Way hosted the drive in partnership with Berrien County Great Start Collaborative and Cass County Great Start Collaborative to collect new and gently used books for ages 2 through adult. The books will be distributed in Berrien and Cass counties through area home-visiting programs, Tri-County Head Start programs, area shelters, strategic businesses, area food pantries and other agencies.

“Today, we are getting all of the books in one location, so we can get them sorted and then get them sent out,” said Julee Laurent, volunteer engagement manager at United Way of Southwest Michigan. “We put these books in the hands of kids that can’t just go out and buy a bunch of books. … [With this program], kids can continually cycle new books into what they are reading.”

The goal for this year’s drive was to collect 5,000 books. Though the books collected during this year’s drive have yet to be counted, Laurent is confident United Way met its goal considering that last year, the drive collected twice the goal amount with 10,000 books, more than 2,000 of which were distributed in Cass County.

Both Laurent and Lewis Cass Intermediate School District officials said that the Spring into Reading book drive and program is particularly beneficial for area children from preschool to third grade as it can get them interested in reading and learning during a time when that is crucial to development.

“From the Great Start Collaborative standpoint, the thing that we know is that our county is really challenged in reading scores,” said Margie Hojara-Hadsell, Great Start Collaborative director for Cass County. “We need to be offering some solutions. [Spring into Reading] can help make reading interesting for people by offering a lot of different options. We want Cass County to thrive. We want our kids to thrive, and part of the way that they will do that is through good books that they can read and get their reading skills up.”

Distribution of books will begin next week with more than 40 locations in Berrien and Cass counties including Southwestern Michigan College and the Lewis Cass ISD Administration Building, in addition to many local schools and businesses. For a full list of distribution locations, visit uwsm.org/bookdrive.

“We are very excited to get distributing,” Laurent said. “Every pound of these books makes a difference, and there are thousands of pounds of books.”