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Katy Preston, founder and executive director of the Clackamas Bookshelf, celebrates giving away 100,000 books to kids

COURTESY PHOTO - Maria Preston, daughter of Clackamas Bookshelf Executive Director Katy Preston, helps the organization celebrate give away its 100,000th book.Clackamas Bookshelf just handed out its 100,000th book! We have been able to safely continue to get books to kids since schools closed in March. It has been wonderful.

My daughter, Maria, has helped a ton, especially when schools closed down in March, and only my little bubble (literally only my family) could work at the site.

As previously reported, the way we approached distribution of books was to team up with the food distributions that the school districts were doing. People would drive through and get their food, then they would get a bag of 10 books for each child. We would have bags available for each grade available at all giveaways. It was really a perfect match.

I felt like we were able to provide a direct service to lots of kids during the pandemic. We called it "feed and read." At the beginning, it was critical, as all the schools and libraries were closed. The families were thrilled to get new books when nothing else was available.

Some districts were doing deliveries of supplies to their students, so we would provide them with a bag for each child who might need books, and they distributed them for us. This happened in Estacada, and they delivered food and books on buses to the various bus stops.

Each district is different on how they serve their students, and we are flexible with how we get books to kids. It's not important how they get them, just that they get them. Since March we have given away 20,911 books. And since 2014, 100,013 books have found a place in the homes of local children.

Our book cleaners are still sanitizing books at their homes, and we still have a huge stockpile of clean books, ready to go. This method is working great. It is safe and they are cleaning so many more books each week, but they all miss being together. That is half the fun of the job.

The bookstore has been open by appointment only. Five customers are allowed per each hourlong time slot. We clean the surfaces in between groups, keep the windows and door open. Customers must be over age 12, and masks are required. It is a chilly shopping experience, but nobody is complaining, and they are so happy to buy books again.

We are taking January off to reorganize the store, but will be open again, by appointment, in February. We are continuing to do surprise bags that we deliver to homes all over Clackamas County. This has been a very successful model for us. And the people who get the deliveries are so pleased with what they get.

Our members and donors have been helping immensely too. With the funds they provide, we are able to purchase a constant supply of brand-new books to put in the bags. It is such a treat to be able to provide children with new books.

Our board of directors has been an integral part of making changes as different scenarios pop up. They are very thoughtful and supportive, keeping a close eye on safety for everyone involved.

We also have added a donation pick-up service. People can click on a link when they have donations, and one of our amazing volunteers will come pick them up off their porch.

All of this progress is due to our amazing volunteers. They organize, deliver, pick up, clean, create surprise bags and help customers at the store. They work so hard, doing individual jobs so they are all safe, but together it runs like a well-oiled machine.

While a lot of places have had to stop what they are doing, luckily, we have been able to safely adapt and figure out a way to keep going. We are all looking forward to being able to work at the same time (together), but every single person in our crew understands how critical it is now, more than ever, to get these books out to kids at home.

We plan to continue this model of service as long as we need to. Whatever comes next, we will problem solve, and continue to get books to kids all over Clackamas County.

Katy Preston is founder/executive director of the Clackamas Bookshelf.

Benefit literacy

What: Book sale to benefit children's literacy organization

When: By appointment

Where: Kraxberger Middle School, 17777 Webster Road, Gladstone

Cost: 50 cents for most books, 25 cents for children's books

Membership: Become a member for $25 a month to receive 10 free books each month

More: Contact 503-908-3766, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit theclackamasbookshelf.org


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