What started out as a small book drive, torpedoed into a huge undertaking resulting in a colossal number of books for charity! Over 10,000 books were collected by Lucas Gabriel and donated to the Center for Fiction in New York City on Friday, April 22.
The Center for Fiction is a non-profit organization run by volunteers devoted to keeping fiction alive through grants, workshops, lectures, reading groups, and programs. Its primary purpose is to encourage kids to read and to help emerging writers.
The books donated by Gabriel will be distributed by the Center for Fiction to poor New York City neighborhoods and schools, both in dire need of books in their libraries. All types of books for varying age levels were collected: educational, self-help, resource, reference, fiction, and non-fiction books. Katrina and Chris Gabriel, Lucas' parents, helped him organize, sort, and box all of the books by genre and level of difficulty.
Gabriel, a freshman at Christian Brothers Academy in Lincroft, came up with the idea of a book drive in the fall, according to Katrina Gabriel, Lucas' mother.
CBA requires all students to achieve a certain number of community service hours before graduation; the number of hours increases with each year.
Gabriel, 14, came across a Web site entitled, 'Read This', which lead him to a page about hosting book drives for the Center for Fiction in New York. Gabriel contacted the center and got the go-ahead to host a book drive for the organization.
"It was unbelievable when he showed us the Web site and started reading that there were all these schools with wish lists -- they have shelving that's donated, but no books!" Katrina Gabriel said.
Gabriel created a flyer to be distributed and his mother contacted John J. Marciante Jr., the Superintendent of the Manalapan-Englishtown School District, to see how he could go about promoting the book drive.
Gabriel met with all six principals of the Manalapan-Englishtown schools. However, each PTA had to approve the book drive, not the superintendent, because Gabriel was not a student of .
While he e-mailed all six PTA 's, due to a time limitation only two schools, and Yellow Duck Preparatory School, were able to partake in the book drive.
Gabriel created bins with flyers on them and dropped them off at the schools, and then would pick up the donated books at the end of each school day.
Both Clark Mills and Yellow Duck donated approximately 3,300 books, and Christian Brothers Academy collected about 4,000 books, according to a news brief on the Center for Fiction Web site.
Gabriel also went door to door around his Englishtown neighborhood and distributed flyers, as well as emailed as many people he could to further publicize the book drive.
"It sort of became a little bit of a viral e-mail," Katrina Gabriel explained. "People were passing it to stay at home moms who get together as a group, and to luncheon groups, and before you know it every time we came home there was another bag of books on the porch."
Although, the official start of the book drive was Monday, April 11, almost 1,200 books were collected by Sunday, April 10.
While a tremendous amount of books were donated, Gabriel wanted to also include some of the more popular book series' that had inspired him to read when he was in middle school. So, Gabriel ordered several book series' to add to the collection including: the Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz, The Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan, and the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney.
"I'm so glad that kids and people of all ages will be able to get books that are free and accessible. It should be a law that everyone has access to books," Gabriel said.
The Gabriel family packed up a U-Haul on Friday, April 22 and drove 180 boxes filled with books to the Center for Fiction. Five hundred of the 10,000 books came from Gabriel's grandfather's library. His grandfather, an avid reader, encouraged him to host a book drive last fall, and his passing in December 2010 only fueled Gabriel's desire to go through with it.
Eventually, Gabriel stopped counting hours for community service. He loved giving back, and was very motivated by the hard work and donations from the community; therefore, he has decided to host a book drive for the Center For Fiction every year until he graduates from Christian Brothers Academy.
Next year, Gabriel said his goal will be collecting 10,000 books to start.
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