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October 25, 2017, Flint, Michigan – If you believe that young people have lost interest in books, a visit to Flint, Michigan, might change your perspective. There, in about a year and a half, children have taken home between 12,000 and 13,000 books, thanks to the efforts of Monica Horton, a tutor and board member of St. Luke’s N.E.W. Life Literacy Center.
Monica recently retired from her years of service as a science teacher. Still wanting to be involved in education, she became a tutor and then a board member at N.E.W. Life, where Sister Carol Weber, OP, serves as Co-director.
“I tried to think of ways that we could help the community,” Monica said. Noting the “plethora” of children’s books at the Center, she decided to put them in buckets and give them out in restaurants. But, she discovered, “Our population isn’t going to restaurants, but soup kitchens.”
She and her husband, Jim, began leaving buckets of children’s books at soup kitchens in the Flint area. “We found out that the buckets consistently were empty” shortly after the books were left, Monica said. “My husband and I happened to work at a soup kitchen and we watched the children go to the buckets before they even went for food.”
Monica said she relies a great deal on help from her husband, who helps distribute the books, and on N.E.W. Life, which has become a collection hub. She also has turned to the local Flint community for continued donations, putting notices in local parish bulletins. Local community members have been very supportive of the project, some donating new books and other “scouring garage sales and finding places where there might be good books at a reasonable price,” Monica said. “It’s been magical. Every time we get low on books, we get a donation we never expected.”
Community members have also responded in other ways to help the cause. Volunteers from the Genesee Intermediate School District’s transition center for impaired adults “come and sort and clean the books, put stickers on them, and put them on shelves according to grades.”
There are many positive benefits to the Book Buckets, Monica said. For example, the books bring children and adults together, offering parents the opportunity to read to their children. “Some in the population can’t read, but everybody can say, ‘Show me the kitty,’” Monica noted.
Monica and the literacy center board are especially excited about the impact that Book Buckets is having on the children of Flint. “We’re changing people’s lives, one child, one bucket at a time,” she said. “We’re starting early with the children. If we can make reading not a job, but something exciting, interesting, and fun, then when they go to school they might have a totally positive attitude.”
New or gently used books for children in pre-school through eighth grade can be sent to Book Buckets at St. Luke’s N.E.W. Life Center, 3115 Lawndale Avenue, Flint, Michigan 48504.
April 21, 2017, Flint, Michigan – Sister Carol Weber, OP, co-founder and co-director of St. Luke’s N.E.W. Life Center, was one of seven to be inducted into the Genesee Regional Women’s Hall of Fame.
Also inducted that evening were Sister Judy Blake, CSJ, who co-founded and co-directs the center with Sister Carol; Dr. Mona Hanna-Attista, MD, the pediatrician who discovered the lead poisoning in Flint children during the recent water crisis; Dr. Susan J. Goering and Dr. Beverly Walker-Griffea, who are active in the Flint and Genesee County communities; Angie Hendershot, lead anchor at ABC-12 News in Flint; and Mildred Doran, who was lost in the Pacific Ocean in 1927 in her attempt to be the first woman to fly across the ocean.
The inductees were presented April 20 during the Eighth Annual Awards Dinner hosted by the Zonta Club of Flint at the Flint Institute of the Arts. The Zonta Club of Flint is part of Zonta International, a women’s service organization that strives to advance the status of women. The inductees’ pictures and stories will be permanently placed in the Sloan Museum in Flint.
“It was pretty overwhelming when I thought of the caliber of women that we were up there with” Sister Carol said about the induction ceremony. “It was a really powerful moment, and everybody was so attentive.”
About 14 people supported Sister Carol and Sister Judy at the ceremony, including Sister Carol’s brother and niece, and women who are employed at the N.E.W. Life Center. “The women were so moved to be there,” Sister Carol said. “It was great to see how excited they were for us.”
In her response to the award, Sister Carol said, “I just go about my day doing what I need to do because I know that’s what I’m called to do.” She sees the Center as a “work of God,” and spoke about “the hope that women can bring to Flint when we band together.”
Sisters Carol and Judy have been working since 2000 with the people of Flint, first serving them through street ministry. They opened the N.E.W. Life Center in 2002 to offer a variety of programs, including a literacy center, employment preparation, a sewing co-op, and a food pantry.
When Flint’s water was found to be contaminated by lead, St. Luke’s N.E.W. Life Center became a bottled water distribution center and then offered a support and nutrition program for pregnant women and mothers of small children, helping them to prepare nutritious meals to offset the effects of the lead in their children’s systems.
Read a related article by ABC-12 of Flint.