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Books for Kids begins 17th annual drive; Benefits groups across community

Ever wonder what happens to the books that are dropped in the Books for Kids bins, once the annual campaign wraps up?

The answer is found at organizations such as Cradle Beach, whose library is stocked with those donations, and the Salvation Army, which offers books as a mental escape to families in crisis.

And at the Even Start/Head Start program in the Holy Cross Center on Maryland Street, where Nevaeh, who's not quite 3 years old, would rather wrap her tiny fingers around a book than a toy.

The 17th annual Books for Kids Campaign kicked off Thursday morning in the Central Library on Lafayette Square.

Throughout April, donations of new books -- suitable for readers up to age 14 -- will be accepted at Wegmans stores in Erie and Niagara counties and at all 37 locations of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library.

"Of all The Buffalo News' charity events, this is the one that means the most to me," said Margaret M. Sullivan, editor and vice president. "I very much believe in the mission behind it; reading and books and kids go together very, very well."

Almost 112,000 books were donated in the 2010 drive. This year's goal is 100,000 books and $20,000 in cash donations, which will be used to buy books for children with special needs, such as Braille texts for the visually impaired.

Since the campaign started in 1995, more than 1.9 million books have been put in the hands of children in need.

"We have a great milestone ahead of us," said Sullivan, who is hoping to top 2 million through this year's drive.

Gabi Jehle, a junior at Nardin Academy, is running the Books for Kids drive at the high school level.

"My goal for this year is to reach out to an even greater number of high schools than in the past," Gabi said. Almost 20 already have committed.

Also partnering with The News are Project Flight, a family literacy program; Buffalo State College; WGRZ-TV; Wegmans; the United Way of Buffalo & Erie County; Barnes & Noble; and the Junior League of Buffalo.

Checks can be made payable to Books for Kids/Project Flight and mailed to Books for Kids, in care of The Buffalo News, One News Plaza, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY 14240. Online donations will be accepted, via PayPal, at www.buffalo.com/booksfor kids.

The donated books will be taken to Project Flight's "book bank" in the Central Library, to be sorted and prepared for distribution.

e-mail: jhabuda@buffnews.com

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