Last fall, we told you about Leatrice Floyd, the library aide at Wilshire Park Elementary School, who was dismayed when she started her job at the school last spring and found many of the shelves in the school’s beautiful new library either empty or holding books that were so worn and tattered they had to be thrown out.
Well, we’re thrilled to report that our readers rose to the challenge and went above and beyond to help one of our lovely neighborhood schools.
First of all, Floyd reports, dozens of individuals who saw the Buzz story called, came in for tours and, yes, donated books…and more books…and even more books. “At least 1,000 of them,” said Floyd last week.
In fact, Floyd says, she was thrilled with the response, which made her outreach effort more than worthwhile for everyone involved.
But as it turns out, things didn’t stop there.
One of the Buzz readers and area residents who saw the original story was Debora Vrana, a senior vice president and media relations manager at City National Bank. Vrana passed the story on to her colleague, Carolyn Rodriguez, who runs City National’s Reading is the Way Up program. The program was established by the bank in 2002, according to an interview with Rodriguez by the National Book Foundation, “to address the plight of school libraries and the lack of current and compelling books available to students.” And since then, it has placed more than 600,000 books into the hands of students.
After Rodriguez read the story about Wilshire Park, she contacted Natalie Brannon, the community business development manager at Barnes & Noble’s store at the Grove shopping center…and then things really took off.
First, Brannon contacted Floyd to find out what books were on her personal wish list for the library. And then – from December 6 through January 5, over the winter holidays – Brannon placed the Wilshire Park wish list at every checkout register in the Barnes & Noble store at the Grove. Clerks would ask customers buying books if they’d also like to buy a book off the list for the school…and as it turned out, the answer was often yes. Or more than just yes. In fact, Brannon said, many customers, including both locals and tourists from all over the world in town for the holidays, bought more than one book..or even, she said, “They’d say, ‘Give me all of them!'” People “were very excited to support a nearby school,” Brannon said, and the store “averaged 400 books donated per week” during the promotion.
And some people were motivated to go even further.
According to Brannon, one of the Barnes & Noble customers who saw the store promotion worked with a comedian at the Hollywood Improv comedy club, told the comedian about the book drive, and she asked audience members to bring books for the school to one of her shows in December…which added even more to the total.
In the end, all totalled, the Barnes & Noble efforts brought in about 4,000 books, which school parents eventually picked up and delivered to Floyd’s library.
But there was still one more surprise.
Last Friday, February 23, Brannon, Rodriguez and Vrana visited the school during one of its regularly scheduled “Coffee with the Principal” events with parents and principal Leighanne Creary…and presented Creary with their congratulations on the success of the book drive…and an additional $10,000 check from City National Bank, to spend on even more books, materials and electronics (such as Nook tablets and e-book readers) from Barnes & Noble. And as Rodriguez explained when presenting the check, the school will also be able to take advantage of the company’s corporate discount at the store, which extends the check’s value to about $13,500.
Unfortunately, Floyd wasn’t able to attend the presentation, which would have been the icing on the cake for her (she works at another school on alternate weeks, and she was there last week), but after she heard about the additional donation, she told the Buzz that she is overwhelmed with gratitude for everything that has unfolded, and all the many, many people who stepped up to help.
“It’s a miracle,” she said. “The whole world embraced us.”
Floyd says she is grateful for – and extends her thanks to – each and every person who has donated books to the school, and that it “just goes to show you what the community will do, regardless of who we are.” In fact, she said, “I want that to be our legacy in these troubling times. These are the things that matter – it’s about the people who bring about changes.”
Finally, if there’s one thing Floyd has taken away from the experience, she said, it’s that speaking up and reaching out is critical if you want to change things. “A closed mouth doesn’t get fed,” she said. And it’s a lesson she’s taken fully to heart, reaching out again recently to a special science education program at USC…which is now – thanks to her contact – providing instruction to Wilshire Park students once a week.
For all the wonderfulness that has resulted from Floyd’s efforts, however, the school now has a bit of a new problem. But this time it’s a good one — how to catalog and process all the new books in a timely manner, so they can be put on the school’s library shelves and checked out by students. Floyd says she may organize a volunteer day and once again turn to the community for some help with those chores. And if she does, she’ll be sure to let everyone know about it.
Also, one final note: while the school has received a bounty of books, it is still looking for computers for the empty computer station in the library. So if there is anyone out there who might be able to help with that kind of donation, Wilshire Park Elementary is still looking for you. (Contact library aide Leatrice Floyd directly at [email protected]…or call (213) 739-4760 and leave a message specifically for Floyd.)