Students collect books for AfricaWhen the Red Wing High School National Honor Society first set out to collect books to send to Africa, members weren’t sure how many they would actually get.
By: Sarah Gorvin, The Republican Eagle
When the Red Wing High School National Honor Society first set out to collect books to send to Africa, members weren’t sure how many they would actually get.
“We weren’t really expecting many at all,” senior George Gabrielson, co-leader for the project, said.
But by the end of their monthlong book drive, the students were getting worried that their designated storage area — a space in the high school’s administration office — wouldn’t be large enough to hold all their collected books.
“The space was cramped,” Gabrielson said.
And on Tuesday afternoon, Gabrielson, with co-leader Abbey Schnaith and Alex Streff, was able to bring 1,786 books to the Books For Africa warehouse in St. Paul.
The project came about last fall, when Red Wing NHS members were looking for volunteer activities to complete their required community service hours.
When high school guidance counselor Vanessa Myran mentioned Books for Africa, the NHS students thought it would be “a great course for Red Wing High School,” Schnaith said.
Books For Africa is a nonprofit organization whose goal is to get books in the hands of children in rural African communities where some kids have never even held a book before.
“When the books arrive, they go to those who need them most: children who are hungry to read, hungry to learn, hungry to explore the world in ways that only books make possible,” the organization’s website says.
The 85 RWHS NHS members decided to hold a book drive during February to coincide with “I Love to Read” month, Schnaith said.
At the beginning stages of the project, the students weren’t sure they could persuade fellow students and school staff, along with the rest of the community, to get on board.
“We thought the biggest challenge would be to motivate people,” Schnaith said.
So the students made fliers to get the word out and created and decorated drop off boxes, which were placed throughout the elementary, middle and high schools. Drop boxes were also set up in various locations around the community, including Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical, United Lutheran Church and the Red Wing Family YMCA.
In addition, students visited each classroom at the high school to explain the project and its importance.
“We split into groups and talked to every advisory period,” Streff said.
As the project got under way, books — both new and used and anything from children’s books to novels to reference materials — began piling up in the donation boxes. More than 1,200 of the collected books came from the high school alone. Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical also donated text books as well as copy paper boxes to transport them in.
On Tuesday, as Streff, Schnaith and Gabrielson were packing up the books for their trip to St. Paul, there were enough of those copy paper boxes to fill not only a pickup box, but also a trailer.
Once the group arrived at the warehouse, they were able to see their books unloaded and packaged with others bound for Africa.
“They had so many books and it was great to see,” Schnaith said. “They told us… we’re going to be able to help out a lot of children. It was a great community project.”