“I like the idea of all kids having a brand new book for Christmas,” said Paolo Donato, who turned 6 on Dec. 1.
And that, in a nutshell, is what Santa’s Book Bag is all about.
Santa’s Book Bag is the brainchild of Lynne Davies, a retired teacher who recently moved from New Jersey to Bayside in West Fenwick.
“I was at my book club meeting in Northern Jersey a few years ago, and we were talking about what an important role books had played for each of us as children. I even remembered the smell and feel of the pages when I opened up a new book and wondered about the story,” said Davies.
“And then the idea came to me, as clear as can be — even the name, Santa’s Book Bag,” she added. “From there, I set out learning how to donate books to the best organizations to get them to needy children and which businesses would be willing to have collection boxes. By Christmas of that year, we collected over a thousand books to donate.”
Davies knew that she wanted to continue Santa’s Book Bag in her new community, and she knew it would be a process that would build slowly before becoming as much a part of the local season as, for example, Toys for Tots.
Her first challenge was to discover the best organization that would be willing and able to distribute all the donated books.
“I was lucky to be given the name of Jackie Steele, a representative of the Edward Pyle Social Services Center in Frankford, who was so helpful and agreed to be the focal person for receiving the books for the center’s clients,” said Davies.
Then came the question of where to collect the books. The first place Davies broached the idea was Bayville Postal Service at 37232 Lighthouse Road, next to Smitty McGee’s. Kathy Free is the manager at Bayville Postal Services.
“I loved the idea from the start,” said Free. “We are really an ideal location because we have lots of people coming through, and as they are waiting to be served or while their packages are being weighed they can pick up a flier from the side of the box. Many customers have asked about it, and quite a few have returned with new books to donate. The owners are happy about it, too, and we look forward to participating again in future years.”
It was to Bayville Postal Services that Paolo’s mom, Ann-Margaret Donato brought him and his elder brother Luca to drop off their contribution. While those books were purchased specifically for Santa’s Book Bag by his parents, young Paolo had something else in mind.
“This is to buy more books,” he explained as he handed over money given to him as birthday gifts at his party. “I want to help people like Luca does.”
Paolo’s favorite books, incidentally, are the Elephant & Piggie series about two brothers, by Mo Willems.
When Davies heard about Paolo’s generosity, she was moved to tears, although, she said, “I’m really not a weepy person!” She has been heartened by the community’s response thus far and is looking forward to the word being shared this year and expanded in the future.
In addition to Bayville Postal Services, boxes for Santa’s Book Bag are located at the South Coastal and Selbyville libraries, Hometown Art at 11 Church Street in Selbyville and Atlantic Physical Therapy at the corner of Old Mill Bridge Road and Lighthouse Road.
The only requirement for the books is that they are new. The books can be for toddlers all the way to young adults. They should not be wrapped, in order that the right book can be selected for the right child.
For further information, contact Lynne Davies at firstname.lastname@example.org.