When Madison Yost decided during her junior year at Lakeridge High School that she wanted to join the Key Club, she had no idea she'd find herself leading a group of middle schoolers in a major book drive.
"I have always been interested in service," she says. "In the future, I want to go into nursing, something I can always do to help others."
Yost says she had heard from friends about the good they were doing through the 80-member service club at Lakeridge to support Tualatin Schoolhouse Pantry and Make-A-Wish Foundation. So as someone who loves service, she decided she had to join. When she asked Lakeridge's club adviser, Terry Shlaes, where she could do the most good, Shlaes told her she'd always wanted someone to lead a junior high version of the club.
Yost stepped in; teacher Faith Jordan agreed to serve as club adviser; and the new group launched in February. Before long, the junior high club had 20 members, including Yost's younger sister Reagan, a seventh-grader. Yost called it the Service Youth Club.
"It was coming to the end of the year, and we wanted to do one big project to reach a bigger audience and impact the whole school," the 17-year-old says.
The idea of creating a book drive came about organically, since so many people, including her younger sister, had extra books to give. The idea "just kept getting mentioned," Yost notes, so she made it happen.
"I was excited," she says. "I love books, and I love reading. And everyone had books to give."
The group set a box by the front office for givers to make donations and posted signs throughout the school for about a week. She tells The Review she was stunned when the effort brought in 640 books.
"I was shocked, and I was so happy," she says. "I didn't know it would be such a big deal."
She says that at least a one-third of the books collected came from one eager donor, teacher John Bass. Yost's little sister also brought in a huge box of books, and many other people came through as well.
When it came time to donate the haul, Yost chose The Clackamas Bookshelf, a 3-year-old Gladstone-based nonprofit that provides free books to low-income children throughout the county. Clackamas Bookshelf Executive Director Katy Preston says that donations like Yost's "are critical to our success," and that a book drive impacts many people.
"Not only do we acquire amazing books to give to children who treasure them, but the people involved with the collecting see the importance of literacy and book ownership," Preston says. "It feels good to know that a book that made such an impact in your childhood could do the same for another child."
She says having young people help other children "gives us hope about the future."
"It shows a deep concern for others, which will only benefit our society in a good way," Preston says. "By volunteering at such a young age, it starts them down a positive path of empathy, compassion and provides a wider scope of the world around them."
Preston estimates that roughly 15,000-20,000 children's books are donated to Clackamas Bookshelf each year. The organization also sells non-children's books at a store that receives thousands of donations a year.
She says having physical books in the home "reinforces the importance of literacy." Not all children have the opportunity to sift through a real book unless they are in school, she adds, and just reading during the school day isn't enough time to explore topics of interest.
"Having books also encourages a love of reading and puts them on a path of becoming life-long learners," Preston says. "There is also the aspect of owning books. This provides the child the opportunity to re-read a favorite book at any point, without having to worry about returning it. Books can become part of (a child's) identity, if they have access to owning them."
Now, because of Yost, many more children will have such access to hundreds of books. Yost's mom, Stacie Yost, says that her family has always been "big on reading," so this book drive was "something that was easy for Madison to be passionate about."
"I'm pleased with the success of this book drive and the impact it will have on those with less access to books," she says, "but what makes it even better is the example it set for the kids in the Lakeridge Junior High Service Youth Club and how they can make a difference in the lives of others. They had great success and that is empowering!"
Madison Yost says that her group seems to have enjoyed the experience. She'd planned the last day of the club for June 6, but members didn't want to stop their Tuesday get-togethers. They pleaded with her to hold one more club meeting on June 13, which was two days before the final day of class at LJHS.
"It shocked me how real it was, how important it was, and how they didn't want it to end," Yost says. "I loved that. ... It made me so happy."
Yost won't be at Lakeridge for her senior year, because her family has moved to Georgia for her dad's job at Panasonic. She says she's sad about leaving the Lakeridge Key Club and her new LJHS Service Youth Club. But she adds that she was delighted to discover her new school in Georgia has a Key Club.
"I'm going to do what I can in a different place now," Yost says.