Coast Guard and First Book reach children through books

by Petty Officer 3rd Class Thomas M. Blue

NEW ORLEANS – The Coast Guard along with their signature charity, First Book worked together to distribute new books to low-income families and schools from a Coast Guard warehouse and the Coast Guard Integrated Support Center here Wednesday, March 28 through March 30.
The distribution was part of First Book’s Book Relief efforts, an initiative launched after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck the Gulf Coast in the fall of 2005. So far, Book Relief has brought more than 3.8 million books back to children, families, and communities throughout the region.

As partners with First Book, the Coast Guard donates warehouse space to store books for the First Book National Book Bank, which receives new book donations from children’s publishers. Coast Guard volunteers help sort and distribute the books to organizations who in turn provide them to programs serving children from low-income families.

“It’s a great opportunity for Coast Guard members to give back to the community,” said Lt. Cmdr. William Budovec, the First Book coordinator for the Coast Guard ISC. “We have distributed more than 1.4 million books since 2004.”

“More than 250,000 books were distributed from the Coast Guard ISC Base,” Budovec said.

Some programs in the New Orleans area came to pick up their books, but most books were shipped to schools and organizations who distribute the books through school literacy programs.

Each year, the Coast Guard receives volunteers from New Orleans’ units to participate in the First Book distribution.

The Coast Guard began its involvement with First Book in 2000 when the Coast Guard named First Book its signature charity organization.

“Through our partnership with the Coast Guard, we have given away more than 13 million new books,” said Stephanie Richardson, a social enterprise fellow with First Book. “That’s the highest level of dedication, and the kids appreciate that.”

Even with Hurricane Katrina, the Coast Guard did not forget about the kids. Days before the storm moved through New Orleans, Coast Guard volunteers transported the books stored in a Coast Guard warehouse to safer and drier locations.

“The outstanding work the Coast Guard accomplishes with First Book really means the world to us, but it means even more to the kids,” said Beth Bingham, vice president of communications for First Book. “Without the partnership with the Coast Guard, First Book would definitely not be where it is today.”

In addition to volunteering for book distributions, Coast Guard members also served on First Book advisory boards, hosted children’s book parties and volunteered to read at local schools throughout the year.

For almost a decade, the Coast Guard and First Book have been encouraging literacy among students across the U.S.

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