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Children come up with book drive for service project

(Jan. 16, 2015) Looking for ideas for new service projects for children, Berlin-based Worcester Youth and Family Counseling Services Inc. turned inward.

The nonprofit group, which provides mental and social health care services for all age groups, asked the children they serve in the Berlin Youth Club program to come up with new ideas to serve people within – and outside – the Berlin community.

The brainstorming session produced a book drive of international proportions.

“One of them brought up helping people in Africa,” Melanie Windsor, youth project coordinator, said. “I asked them how they wanted to do that and gave them a few suggestions, one of which was the idea of sending used books. That got them excited.”

As part of the “help our neighbors” mission, the group also decided to give books to local children.

“[Children] often work on projects like handmade scarves, dog toys, and cards for different local causes, but this is the first child-led project where they developed the idea themselves,” Windsor said. “We are hoping to find a place for books that are just sitting on someone’s shelves unused.”

Under the program, members of the public may drop off gently used children’s books to the offices at Worcester Youth and Family Counseling Services.

“We ask that they leave their name and email so that we can say thank you for helping us,” Windsor said.

The nonprofit will send books locally to students in the HeadStart Berlin program, and internationally though the Books for Africa agency.

Along with book donations, the Berlin Youth Club hopes to raise additional money to offset the 50-cent per book shipping costs.

“Only one-third of the schools in Kenya have libraries,” Windsor said. “We discussed as a group how hard it would be to have a lesson in school if no one had the book to follow along. The children were shocked that there may be a school somewhere with no books.”

The club will collect books and monetary donations through the end of February. If the children collect enough books to line their hallway, end-to-end, they get a pizza party as an award.

In addition, the Berlin Youth Club will present a game night with a Dr. Seuss theme on Feb. 13 from 5-6:30 p.m. It will be open to Berlin children ages 3-11. There is no charge for the event, but children who bring a new or gently used book receive a chance to win a Dr. Seuss prize pack.

“We hope the children will learn about helping their local community, but also looking at the larger global picture and learning about the realities of other children,” Windsor said. “We also hope to encourage more projects like this throughout the year.”

For more information, call 410-641-4598 or visit www.gowoyo.org.

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