Books for Soldiers is a Friends of the Library project for sending books to our men and women serving in all our armed forces overseas. They make requests on a website; we, as official volunteers, search that site and fill requests where we are able from our surplus donated books. The need is great in some isolated posts, and our efforts are greatly appreciated.
Origin of the Books for Soldiers Program
This project began a few years ago, when someone in South Carolina saw some National Guard friends deployed overseas just as he was preparing to move. He had several boxes of books he didn’t want to move so he sent them to those friends. As others noticed and he began to receive requests for specific books, this grew into a project undertaken by his church. It has now grown into a website, Books for Soldiers, where any US troops can post a request for books and other materials. Individuals who wish to help fill these requests must fill out an application and be certified by a Notary Public to gain access to troop requests. Through the generosity of donors in our community, the Friends of the Library receive many duplicate copies and paperbacks of popular books for their quarterly book sales. So we became a certified volunteer.
Our volunteers usually fill group requests of a general nature, such as: “my platoon would appreciate books, magazines, DVD movies and/or games for recreation during downtime”, or “we are establishing a small base library”, or from “I am a Chaplin, who is setting up a library in my office so personnel will feel comfortable coming in”. We fill requests for individual books if we have the book. We have filled requests for cookbooks (Army cook wanting to improve!!), personal finance, starting a business, and maintaining family relationships at a distance. We have even sent children’s books to several units that requested them so parents could be taped and webcast reading to their children. We sent books, coloring books and games to a hospital for the waiting room for visiting children.
The Friends of the Library cannot spend any of their money for purposes not directly related to library needs. So this program is run entirely through donations to cover postage. At the quarterly book sales donation boxes are set on the table and people asked to donate a dollar or two when they purchase books. Since the beginning of record keeping for this program in 2005, volunteers have sent over 24,000 books and 500 CDs or DVDs to our men and women overseas. About $7500 has been spent for postage, even though we send everything media mail and only to the nearest APO or FPO.
For the calendar year of 2012, volunteers sent 83 boxes, 50 CDs and 1,304 books, spending $580 in postage. And even though the requests are fewer now, as we bring more of our people home from Iraq and Afghanistan, we have sent over 50 boxes so far in 2013.
Help with Postage or Time
You can support this program in two important ways. You can send a check to the BCFOL at 504 N. Cusick St, Maryville TN, 37804 with a note “books for soldiers postage donation”. You can also help, if you have as little as three hours a month to spare, by volunteering to send books. To volunteer, please submit an Application Form. For more information call Larry Ackley (BCFOL Volunteer Coordinator) at 982-0981 or contact Kellie Frazier (Books for Soldiers Committee Chair). You can find articles and recent updates about Books for Soldiers in issues of the BCFOL Newsletter.
Quotes from “Thank You” Letters Received
“We would like to thank you and the members of your library group for the care package that was sent. It’s always nice for our soldiers to receive support from our fellow Americans. There are many soldiers who don’t receive packages all the time – just seeing a package with a soldier’s name makes that individual happy. We all want you to know that it is wonderful to be supported and thought of by all of you. Please keep us in your prayers and we will continue to keep all of you in ours. Thank you again and God Bless.”
“We wanted to take a moment to say thank you for your show of support and appreciation. Our mission at the . . . . . clinic is to help soldiers maintain resiliency and readiness while dealing with the trial of their deployment. The effect of your support touches not only our clinic but every soldier we come into contact with. The little things that say America’s thoughts are still here with us are greatly appreciated and mean more than you can imagine”
“Once again I’d like to sincerely thank the Blount County Tennessee Friends of the Library for your package of paperback books. I cannot count the times I’ve listened to the blue grass and gospel music that was sent earlier. And above all else it warms my heart to know the DVD’s, CD’s (I copied the music to my laptom) and all the books have been passed along. Perhaps to a weary traveler passing through our Passenger Terminal or even perhaps a rotational person like me, reading the print on their precious off-time”
“Thank you very much for the books. It was great to get some more reading items sent over there, there’s a lot of book passing back-n-forth over here from running out of stuff to read to pass the time. It’s awesome knowing that there are people taking time to support what we’re doing and making sure we’re not forgotten. It would be sweet if more public libraries in towns all over the states had an operation like ya’lls. Being able to run a book recycling program, book sales, and using profits for fixing up children’s sections and giving back to the community like that. Not to mention what you are doing for us troops over here. Ya’ll are role models for the rest of the country . . well thanks again for remembering us over here and me and the joes over here appreciate the books.”
“I’d like to sincerely thank the Blount County Tennessee Friends of the Library for their package of books, DC and DVD. I was additionally gratified as I’ve been through Maryville before when I lived in Southern Middle Tennessee and miss it terribly. Ho how I especially miss the Smoky Mountains and our condo outside Pigeon Forge.
I intend on only keeping the awesome Bible and after I’ve perused the books and recorded the CD onto my laptop I will donate them to the learning center . . . Thanks again and God Bless you . . . I sincerely got a lump in my throat when I received your package and felt like a child at Christmas opening the package. . . .”
We receive thank you notes, both through the US mail and through Friends’ e-mail. Units have sent letters, certificates of appreciation, and even an American flag. A bulletin board with some of these thank you notes is on display at each book sale. Many thank you notes are posted directly to the Books for Soldiers website. According to these notes, knowing that the people in this country stand behind our armed forces personnel is deeply appreciated by those who are deployed. They are impressed and pleased that total strangers would think of them and send care packages to them.