They’ve done toy drives. They’ve done diaper drives. They’ve collected food for local food pantries. This year they wanted to do something different.
The Somerset High School Student Council searched on Google for a local charity, and the one that caught their eyes was Books for Africa, said student council advisor Jennifer Grambort Sutton.
“One reason it caught our eye is they have a warehouse in St. Paul, which we could potentially visit,” Sutton said. “We’re hoping to get there after Christmas to drop the books off and potentially volunteer there.”
Books for Africa is a nonprofit organization dedicated to collecting books and educational materials for distribution to children and adults in Africa. The organization’s headquarters is in St. Paul, and it has warehouses in St. Paul and Smyrna, Ga. Its goal, according to its website, is “to end the famine of books in Africa.”
The nonprofit organization collects books from publishers, schools, libraries, individuals and other organizations. The books, once collected, are sorted by subject and reading level at the warehouses before they are shipped to schools and libraries.
Categories of books suggested by BFA include general leisure reading for all ages, English reading skills, math, health, social studies, English literature, hobbies, business and economics, science and engineering, reference books, encyclopedias, computer science and many others.
BFA doesn’t accept textbooks that are more than 15 years old, or encyclopedias that are more than 10 years old. Other books and subjects not accepted are books on U.S. history or historical figures, holidays celebrated only in the U.S. or Europe, witches or magic.
Since its inception in 1988, BFA has shipped more than 28 million books to 49 African countries.
The students have made the book collection into a competition. For three Wednesdays books are collected by homeroom, student council representative Adam Marty said. They began the week after Thanksgiving.
“We decided to do a fundraiser for before Christmas,” Marty said. “We did a gift drive last year, so we went a new route this year. People donate more books than gifts because they’re available at home.”
Once the books are collected from each homeroom, they are weighed by homeroom in the school’s wrestling room. They are not measured by number of books, but by weight, as a fun twist, Marty said.
The homeroom with the most pounds of books the first week got ice cream bars. The second week’s winners enjoyed candy canes. The overall winner from the three weeks will get a pizza party, Marty said.
The group collected 161.3 pounds of books the first week. Madame Crawford’s homeroom won, with 59.5 pound of books.
The second week’s collection, weighed on Wednesday, Dec. 11, generated 197.3 pounds of books. Carolyn Spoerl’s homeroom won for week two with 76.7 pounds of books. The final weigh-in was scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 18.
Marty said any books students bring in that aren’t accepted by BFA will be donated elsewhere.