Rachel Sumner '08 of Greenfield, Mass., recently visited New Orleans as part of a book distribution effort; she is interning this summer with First Book, an international non-profit that gives books to low-income children.
She said the city was “absolutely unlike any other place I had ever been.”
A Coast Guard lieutenant drove her and others from First Book around the city so they could see “the prevalence and scope of the destruction that remains a year after the hurricanes,” which she described as “mind-boggling.”
“It was great to meet some of the groups who are working so hard to help children and families try to regain a sense of normalacy. It was also great to work in the Coast Guard warehouse; I met some wonderful and efficient 'Coasties' who could load books into a truck/trailer/you name it faster than I could say 'First Book!'. It was neat to witness firsthand the great partnership that we have with the Coast Guard.”
First Book is the signature charity of the U.S. Coast Guard, which is why the distribution was done at a Coast Guard warehouse.
Sumner helped start the First Book campus advisory board at HWS during her first year. The distribution in New Orleans was part of the Book Relief initiative which First Book started after the hurricanes of 2005; they pledged to give 5 million books to children, families, libraries, and schools in the Gulf Coast.
Of the approximately 100,000 books Sumner was involved with, half stayed in Louisiana and the other 50,000 were shipped to other groups across the country. In order to recieve books from First Book, an organization must serve a population that is at least 80 percent low-income children or be a Title I school.
Ave Bauder '81, director of the HWS Public Service office, was “pleased and excited that Rachel had this opportunity to make a difference and experience what is going on in New Orleans firsthand.”
“She is one of our shining stars and the second student from William Smith who has participated in this selective program of the Institute on Philanthropy and Voluntary Service. She represents well the kind of civically engaged students we are developing at the Colleges.”
For more information about communinity service at the Colleges, and what it means to our students, please click here.