The latest edition of Books for Kids kicked off on a gloomy Tuesday morning, but inside the Salvation Army's Mitchell Owen Community Center, the faces of smiling children brightened the day.
More than 2.8 million books have been distributed in Western New York during more than two decades of the annual fund drive. Sponsors of the event gathered at the community center to speak about the power of books and the importance of introducing them to children at an early age.
"Our house is still full of books that I read to my children and that they read themselves. We probably have 30 Clifford books at our house," said Mike Connelly, editor of The Buffalo News. "But many kids are not so lucky."
The annual campaign started in 1995 by The Buffalo News, Project Flight and SUNY Buffalo State College, said Mary Jean Jakubowski, director of the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library, who served as emcee.
Salvation Army Major Thomas Applin said he still has a book given to him at age 8 during Sunday School.
"My most prized possessions growing up were books," Applin told about 65 supporters who filled the cafeteria of the community center. "Books provide an important start for children."
Groups of preschoolers sat throughout the room looking at books they just received. At times they were laughing – screaming even – as they showed each other their new books. A few put on 3-D cardboard glasses that added dimension to the pictures in the books.
Yasmin Young of WBLK radio commended the efforts of Geraldine Bard and Elizabeth Cappella, co-founders of Project Flight, a local book bank that empowers underprivileged children and families in the effort to increase literacy.
Book collecting events include a community drive beginning at 6 a.m. April 20 at Wegmans, 5275 Sheridan Drive. From 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. the Library on Wheels bookmobile will be on site and open for business. Storytelling inside the store begins at 10:30 a.m.
Books may be dropped off at: Wegmans in Erie and Niagara counties; Buffalo and Erie County public libraries; The Buffalo News, corner of Washington and Scott streets; Dipson Theaters; WNY Mattress Firm; Raymour & Flanigan; and Tom’s Restaurant, 3221 Sheridan Drive, Amherst.
Monetary donations to purchase new books are also welcome and will be used to buy Braille, large-print and other specialized books. Make checks payable to: Books for Kids/Project Flight, 7954 Transit Road, Suite 205, Williamsville, NY 14221.